They were gathered together, family and friends, needing the comfort and love of those who understood the gap this death left. Memories were shared, stories told, and chuckles heard. Some tears were choked back. Finally Doug spoke with a voice he strove to keep steady.
“When someone you love dies, you lose the person, but the relationship lives on.”
A hush fell on the group. Some nodded. One chap put his arm around Doug’s shoulders and said, “Bob would be happy to know his son feels that way, Doug. Hang onto that insight. It will be a tie to him that will be priceless.”
In the last year I was reading one of Jim Taylor’s blogs. He wrote of the death of his lifelong friend, Bob Little, and recounted the statement made by Doug. My response to it surprised me. A jumble of emotions poured over me. Sadness, joy, pain, frustration – all were there. Above all, though, there was a feeling of recognition.
“He got it right,” my mind whispered. “I know, I have experienced it!”
One of my firm beliefs is that life does not operate on a ‘One-size-fits-all’ motto. What I experience may not be a universal reaction, perhaps not even a common one, but it is mine. With that proviso I soldier on.
Sheldon died almost four years ago. He was part of my life since we were eighteen. We were married for sixty five years and parents of four beloved children. Our years together built a strong, satisfying relationship. The glue was love. When he died I felt cut adrift, and didn’t know who I was. Suddenly I was old and alone.
Slowly my emotions stabilized. Reality set in. The person I loved is gone. My life goes on without him. His path has ended, but mine still leads onward.
Now almost four years later everything is different. The new “me” lives in a different city. I live in a new seniors’ residence. My friends and activities are new. My family members are warm and loving, and the new factor is that they live nearby! And in these last years something else new has been going on.
If I had read Doug’s words four years ago, recognition would not have been my reaction. Interest probably, but not the “I know what you mean” response. Now, although the person of my beloved Sheldon is lost to me, I feel my relationship with him to be alive and well. I’ve done my grieving. The memories no longer hurt, and have moved to being a warm tie to him.
I go out for a walk. The beauty of the fall foliage thrills me, and I think how much Sheldon would enjoy the beauty this city presents. Life presents a situation calling for a hard decision, and I wonder where he would settle on this matter. In the night I rouse a little and reach out to touch him. His absence jerks me awake, but the memories of our past nights flood in, warm and real.
I have something to write. In the past it would have been given to Sheldon for his comments. Wordy he was not! They would be one of:
“Needs some work.”
Or occasionally, “I don’t agree.”
Sometimes I talk to him. “Sheldon, you probably won’t agree with this essay, but sorry, it has to be this way. Read it again.”
My mind knows he is dead, yet sometimes I look up when I’m in a crowd, and for a moment think I see him coming toward me. For that second I feel once more the rush of love and warmth that I knew then. The memory is worth the price of the pang which follows, as I return to reality.
Memories are the substance of the relationship which lives on. What remains is a strong feeling that while Sheldon is indeed gone, my relationship with him will remain. It is a living part of me, and will help me down the path through the years that I still must travel.