Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Momento mori

Ash Wednesday, February 8, 1989

The fact that Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine's Day creates an interesting tension between love and mortality. Momento mori set against vanitas, ashes falling on roses.

This newsworthy collision of love and death is an oddity of the calendar caused by the moveable feast that is Easter.

It is the first time this has happened in my lifetime, and it occurs two months and three days after his death. It's not too strong to say it feels like an assault, a literal shoving of reminders of death into my face.

I don't feel the need for any ashy reminders of my mortality smeared on my forehead. I don't need to be urged to slow down, to reflect on the swiftness of life and the inevitability of death. I have been sitting with ashes for weeks now.

Instead I am struggling to focus on the gifts his love gave me, on the strengths he nurtured in me, on the many times he nudged this introvert into new places amid new people, on the grace with which he handled grief, on the way children responded joyfully to him, I suspect because their open child-like hearts always recognized their twin in his.

He was a bright spirit. His light was a lantern to my feet, and without it, the way forward is harder to see.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Traveling into a future without him

Loss is a landscape I am forced to navigate every day.

Loved spaces once shared are now places where pain lives. To occupy those spaces is to encounter the piercing realty of just how much I've lost. And since this reality encompasses most of the spaces in which I live and move and have my being, I have to put on emotional armor just walk into church or through the garden, work in the farmhouse, sit in front of the fire, or - hardest of all --  lay down in bed at night.

It is tiring to navigate beloved spaces now turned desolate. As a friend who has experienced similar grief wrote to me, "The whole world is diminished." I am using a lot of energy simply to get through the day, and then the night.

I don't mean that I live shrouded in loss all the time. I still have a life, and people and animals I love, work I care deeply about, a family I adore. And I have the immense gift of knowing I was deeply loved and cherished.

So I can hold the grief and sadness at bay much of the time, pulling strength from the love and care of so many friends. Plus - and never doubt this - the kindness of strangers is a very real thing.

Still, at every turn in this journey into a future without him I can be ambushed, blindsided by grief, felled by loss between one step and the next.

There is no pill to make this pain go away. But the memory of love, the knowledge of love now present, and my faith in love eternal makes this journey possible.

But, oh God, how much I miss him.