If you were here beside me: An essay

If you were here beside me

            It was sunny outside that day. The trees were sparkling in the sunlight, giving off those shadows carved into the pavement. The birds were singing that day. It was one of the few times I was not aggravated by the sound of chirping. The people were outside mowing their lawns, for it was the first day of spring that the weather decided to cooperate. Winter had ended. The trees were beginning to recover from the snowfall that year. And I was hopeful for us. I knew that this would be our day to spend together. We usually spent Sundays together. This was your only day off. It was a day of hope, of inspiration, of sadness. And I will never forget it. I will never forget you, my love. You may have left this world, but you will never leave my heart. And that is a promise. So it is like you are not really gone.

Rossiter Worthington Raymond once said: “Life is eternal, and love is immortal, and death is only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight” (“Quote Garden”). Our love is immortal, so that every memory I have of you and of us, is now awakened.

I walked down the street today and thought of you. It smelt of fall. The leaves were beginning to come off the trees. The neighbors were starting to close their doors at night. The weather was turning bitterly cold in the evening. And it got me thinking: it’s been six months without you. Somehow, I have survived. But that has not been an easy time coming. I have struggled, fallen beside myself, and wanted to join you. There is nothing quite like this. I get cards and letters from other widows. They try to understand my grief; they cannot. But you must know that I have tried to move on. However, my heart simply cannot. Let me explain what happened in these tumultuous six months.

I have been told that grief is a process. At least, this is what my therapist says. She is too optimistic for my taste. She keeps trying to tell me that I will be okay, but I am not so sure I believe her:

The death of a loved one is an event that all of us [are] likely to experience during our lifetimes, often on numerous occasions. Whilst lives are often transformed by such loss, it does not necessarily need to be for the worse in the long term. Dealing effectively and positively with grief caused by such a loss is central to your recovery process and your ability to continue with and fulfill your own life for the better. We have put together some notes in this section to help you understand some of the emotions you are likely to go through after the death of a loved one and to offer some suggestions on how best to cope and deal with these emotions. (“MuchLoved”)

It sounds clinical, I know. But I have found that my grief is better handled under my own circumstances. Reaching the destination of being okay again has everything to do with how I deal with it. Not necessarily this sort of nonsense I have learned in therapy.

The process of grief, I have learned, my love, is much more intricate than crying on my pillow at night hoping for your return. No, no. It is not that simple. I have begun to come across physical problems. My breathing is slower. I hiccup every night before bed. I find myself to be tired all day long. And worst of all, I have even more heart problems. And with these growing heart problems comes the responsibility to take more pills at new times each day. I told the doctor that it is just a broken heart. She laughed, probably assuming I was joking. But some of these symptoms correlate with my loss:

Physical responses are also to be expected. You may experience tightness in your throat, heaviness across your chest, or pain around your heart. Your stomach may be upset, along with other intestinal disturbances. You may have headaches, hot flashes, or cold chills. You may be dizzy at times, or tremble more than usual, or find yourself easily startled. Some people find it hard to get their breath. You may, in addition, undergo changes in your behavior. You may sleep less than you used to and wake up at odd hours. Or you may sleep more than normal. You may have odd dreams or frightening nightmares. You may become unusually restless, moving from one activity to another, sometimes not finishing one thing before moving on to the next. Or you may sit and do nothing for long periods. (“MuchLoved”)

There is no water aerobics. There is no bingo. Grieving over you is what I do. All day, every day. The doctors say that this is a mistake. They say that I should be going on with my life, spending time with friends and focusing on my goals. What they do not know: you were my friend, you were my goal. Without you, I am nothing. I have nothing, and I want nothing.

I hear that the Irish understand this conflict. There is a headstone in Ireland that reads: “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal” (“Quote Garden”). No one can ever take away those memories we had together. Do you remember when we went to that Yankees game? It was our first trip to New York. You were excited to see your favorite team play. Your face lit up as soon as we entered the stadium. You looked like a kid on his first trip to Disneyland. We ate those giant hot dogs and drank Coca-Cola for the very first time. We laughed and laughed at the fans booing everyone and everything. It was more than an experience. It was a memory of a lifetime. We always said that we would go back to see them play at the new Yankee Stadium. We never did.

My grief cannot be explained, cannot be examined. I am not a patient in a psych ward nor do I take anti-depressants. Sometimes I feel like I should do the latter. I am merely a woman lost, facing the grief of a loved one. There are several thousand others out there like me. They get it. But they cannot understand the loss of my loved one. It is a different experience for all of us. And that is beginning to become clearer.

I saw you the other day. You were playing catch with Charlie again. He was jumping in the yard like he had not seen a ball in weeks. Even though the others think I am crazy, I know that you were there. I could feel you, and I know it is true: “Some grieving people report unusual happenings that are not easy to describe yet seem very real. You may be going about your daily life and suddenly have a sense of your loved one’s presence. Some people report having auditory or visual experiences related to this person. At times the loved one offers a message during a dream or time of meditation” (“MuchLoved”).

If you were here beside me, I would tell you that I need you. I would tell you that I love you, that everything will work out for us in the end. If you had not been in the sun so many years, this would not have happened. We should have taken better care of ourselves. I do not blame you, though. That hot North Carolina sun always turned us from pale to dark during the warm months. But do not worry, my dear, I have it, too, now. And I will not be getting the treatment as you did; I will not put up a brave fight. The cancer has spread to my brain. I have come to terms with that. And so should you.

There is no point in grieving if we can be together now. So I have stopped. We will be together forever. The conclusion I have drawn: this separation was only temporary. Just be patient, for I am almost there. The days are passing toward our reunion, even the doctors think so. They tell me that I have six months left. But that is far too long to live without you:

Grief is about more than your feelings—it will show up in how you think. You may disbelieve this person actually died. You may have episodes of thinking like this even long after they died. Your mind may be confused, your thinking muddled. You may find it difficult to concentrate on just about everything. Or you may be able to focus your attention but all you can focus on is the one who died, or how they died, or your life together before they died. (“MuchLoved”)

You are not dead. I am not dead. We are forever one.



Works Cited

“Dealing with the death of a loved one.” Much Loved: The Online Memorial Charity.

MuchLoved, n.d. Web. 30 Oct 2012. <http://www.muchloved.com/gateway/death-of-a-loved-one.htm>.

“Quotations: In Sympathy.” Quote Garden. Quote Garden, n.d. Web. 30 Oct 2012.