As soon as he settled into his recliner and pushed PLAY on the remote, I grabbed a couple of pillows from the couch and laid down, making myself comfortable on the floor beside him. In a routine so familiar, so nearly choreographed, when he raised the footrest, I lifted one foot into his lap. Absently, his fingers curled around my foot and began massaging the arch. He eased the aches in my feet for a while, then I gradually made my way back to the couch and snuggled under a blanket throw. The television played on, flickering light and shadow across our faces, through trips to the kitchen for snacks, through idle comments about actors or events, and it was dark and quiet and comfortable in our cozy front room.
It was the two of us, in the little world we created. Not fancy…just full of love.
Later, he turned off the TV and we sat in the darkness, talking quietly. And he said, – as he always said – “Baby Doll, I’m so glad you married me. I like this better than dating.” And I laughed and agreed because I’d always hated dating, too. And Kevin and me? Well, we were not the kind of people you looked at and said, “Wow! I bet they have an active social life.” More like an active library card. But that’s okay. It’s part of what made us so perfect for each other. I think I knew even before our first date, through the months of working beside him, that he was the one for me. I’d never met anyone like him – and he said the same about me. It wasn’t a case of opposites attracting. It was a case of two pieces of one soul, separated and lost, wandering around looking for each other, and the moment of magic that happened when they joined.
“I have found the one my soul loves.”
It took me by surprise the other day when my friend mentioned that someone had asked her if I was dating anyone yet.
I shook my head because the question didn’t even make sense. Dating? Why would I be dating? I looked down at the diamond sparkling on my left hand. I’m still married…
I know my marriage vows said ‘til death do you part – but that’s the thing: I don’t feel parted from Kevin. I miss him and I desperately want to see him again, to hear his voice, to feel his arms around me again as we do a family group hug with the Bear – but I don’t feel parted from him. I feel just as married, just as much with Kevin, as I did that day in August almost eleven years ago when we promised everything to each other. My love for him, for everything that we had together – that didn’t just suddenly stop at 3:42 p.m. on that dark April day last year.
“Why would he ask that?” I sat puzzled in my friend’s kitchen.
Puzzled because there seems to be an assumption in our world that you only get a certain amount of time to grieve. A year seems to fit most people’s idea of an adequate amount of time. Yes, certainly after a year, the reasoning seems to be, one should be getting on with life again.
But here’s the thing: Grief is not on a timeline. It cannot be squeezed into some neat little box to make everyone else comfortable. It’s more complicated than that. The shock of Kevin’s death is past. I am “getting on with life” — I wake up every morning and do the things that need to be done. But the grieving? It’s still here; it doesn’t go away. Kevin’s death is still happening for me. There are good days and bad days, but I still cry every day. I pick up the phone to call or text him all the time. On the very worst days, in the moments when I can’t stop screaming in this half-life I’m in, the broken bits of my heart squeeze so painfully I feel like the shards will stab through and pierce me from the inside out. My life with him – the two of us together – doesn’t feel over. Maybe that’s because our vibrant little girl is still dancing around me, the image of her Daddy etched across her delicate features. She has his mannerisms and genetic traits and it doesn’t feel like he’s gone. We talk about him every day. She keeps the best part of him right here on Earth. We giggle about silly Daddyisms that have been engrained into our daily routine. His body is gone, but his spirit? It’s definitely alive and surrounding us with his gentle love. For us, some way, somehow, he’s still alive.
I love him.
And I’m still married to him.
The thought chills me.
I had – have – great love in my life. The kind of love that doesn’t happen for everyone, and if my heart wasn’t already broken with missing him so much, it would ache for those who never experience a marriage like Kevin and I had. He is the love of my life – the kind of love that doesn’t just happen every day. I’m so proud that he chose me to spend his life with. And devastated that his life was so short.
Any expectation that I will suddenly just simply stop grieving for him now that he’s been gone from me for a year is just unrealistic. That’s not how it works, but it’s hard to know that from the outside looking in. It was so easy to get used to living with him – it’s impossible to get used to living without him.
I don’t know what God has planned for my life. I am trusting Him to reveal it in His perfect timing. I do know that right now, I miss my husband. A year has done nothing to change that.
“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”