Maggie’s absence sits like a bitter, crumbling pill in the back of my throat, refusing to dislodge despite ample flushing with alcohol and tears.* As days pass, the crispness of my memories of my sweet love are beginning to fade, turning instead to fuzzy approximations. That which once was just a glance away I now have to pull from my mind and each time, less detail emerges. Meanwhile, as if to salt my wound, various legal barriers are complicating my attempts at getting her accounts “in order.”
*Yes, I know the imagery breaks down with the tears bit. I’m not swallowing my tears. But it sounds so good. Call it a literary indulgence.
It’s been far, far longer than I’ve ever gone without talking to my sweetheart since the day we met nearly 10 years ago. (June 14th will be the 10th anniversary of our first date.) It’s proving very difficult to break the connection between us. My heart and mind aches for that interaction that only Maggie can provide. Old beloved habits die hard. My body has taken up a new pattern that starts in my head and finishes in my heart. It happens in just a split second. First, I think “Oh, Maggie would like to hear about this” or “Hey, wonder what Maggie is doing” or “blah, blah, need to call Maggie, blah, blah.” My need to talk to her is no less automatic as is my need to breathe, purely subconsciously. Quick to follow is my conscious mind spilling cold water all over that urge. Then it hits my stomach. Know that weird sicky feeling you get when the roller coaster crests a hill too fast and your stomach seems to lurch upward? That’s it, the first physical symptom and it’s gone quickly. But that symptom is the cue for the corners of my mouth to turn south followed quickly by the eyes drifting downward. Finally, I let out a sad sigh while I listen to my heart beat inside my chest, thumping just a little bit slower than it did just a second before. Rinse with tears. Repeat sixty times per day.
Monday I attended a grief group called For the Love of Christi. It’s a local group started by a couple who were thrown into their own grieving nightmare when they lost their young, beautiful daughter years ago. Since, they’ve helped many, many people walk the same path I’m on, including a friend of mine’s dad. When I first arrived I got angry. How could any of these people understand what I’m feeling, I thought. They didn’t know Maggie nor did they know what she meant to me. And damn them all for pretending. But as I listened to them talk about their own journeys I realized that, yeah, they didn’t know Maggie but in their own lives they had their own shining star that was extinguished and who am I to judge who was qualified to feel the way I was feeling? They were obviously hurting and I felt genuine sadness for their loss.
But, despite the similar circumstances, I didn’t really identify with them. Their loss seemed almost foreign to me. It was distant and something I could walk away from. Somehow mine was different. Maybe it was our difference in age (I was by far the youngest in the Lost Spouse group.) Maybe it was the difference in the length of time we’d been on this journey (the average was much closer to two years than my piddly two weeks, with some at four+ years.) Maybe it was that they were all women (with the exception of one guy who had just recently lost his wife, another very sad story.) Regardless, after it was over I felt proud and surprisingly tranquil. For after listening to what they had to say I realized that, yeah, while this sucks and is tough, I’m doing ok. In fact, I think I’m doing better than ok. I’m healing.
I’m not afraid to cry. Heck, I did just last night at Star Trek, although that’s a little embarrassing (Really, who cries at a Star Trek movie? Apparently me…) But I think of every tear that I cry as a salty little chisel that is falling on this huge, beautiful block of What’s Next. What’s Next is a precious and amazing substance made up of a mixture of What Was, What Is and something else, something mysterious. As each tear-shaped chisel hits the large block it carves out a tiny, tiny chunk of What’s Next. What’s Next is very, very hard so no less than a million tears will have to fall to have any visible effect. But, over time, shaped by my tears, the block will eventually take shape and the inner beauty of What’s Next will emerge. I know it’s going to be magical. How could it be any other way? For part of What’s Next is What Was. And What Was was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.