Racing or crawling, it passes. I’m rounding on eighteen months of widowhood, my still-unaccustomed new label. But when the 27th of this month arrives, so will my sister. My idolized, bounding-puppy enthusiastic older sister. The best possible example of an Extrovert. A woman who embodies the state of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). Once, I suggested she experiment with JOMO (Joy of Missing Out). She threw back her long silver hair to howl at the concept, clapping her hands with glee. Of her many attributes, her laugh is in the top three.
So I welcome my ebullient sister on the anniversary of my eighteenth month with gratitude. This second year is altogether unlike the first. Getting a glimpse of who I once was, or a hint of who I might become, is exhilarating and serrating. This is not in the grief books I’ve skimmed; only the knowing nods of my ever-patient Hospice counselor keep me from flying into insanity, often.
Looking backwards to catalog what I’ve accomplished, in a zombie state, is small comfort but comfort just the same. Looking further backwards churns hurricane waves of danger. Those brutal final days? No, don’t want to remember. The terrible, slow deterioration, which began long before the actual diagnosis? Nope, not that either. So flash to the happier times and – boom: can’t linger long, thank you very much.
“The first year is horrible and the second year is worse.” It’s a grief cliche that I hoped had no basis in truth.
My counselor and I discuss death versus divorce. I honestly think one bereaved has a better time of it, all things considered. Flash that badge and any measure of slack gets cut. Divorcees don’t have the same luxury. Society seems to hope and expect each will “get out there” and “get back to life” without honoring the mourning that must – surely? – echo what follows a physical death. My counselor reminds at this point in the monologue, “In your case, you had both: your husband left you without leaving you when he chose a new path.”
Ah yes. The priesthood. My husband was initiated into an ancient Daoist tradition and along the eight-year journey, found the spiritual home he’d been seeking since he gained consciousness in this lifetime. He was whole and at peace. That his new reality left no room for me was particularly mind-twisting because, how could I complain? When we married, I believed his hierarchy of caring went: 1) God (i.e., his spiritual quest); and 2) Me. I could take being second to God.
Over time I learned I was actually number three. Work was the second passion in his life. I had quit corporate America to devote my life to making his career and in this, I succeeded magnificently. I also went to school and got a useless Masters degree; started and managed a non-profit that was, perhaps, marginally successful in its mission; wrote a memoir that won an award but couldn’t turn the head of an agent (“Sorry to say, because it’s really engaging, but no one wants to read a memoir from someone they’ve never heard of”). My late husband supported anything I dove into. Whatever it was meant less attention he had to pay?
Time may wash away the bitterness I’m surprised to find flowing. Because in addition to missing and sadness, there is anger. All that was unsaid or undone. All those things we never got to do. We were ace travelers. And despite or because of it all, best friends.
My sister has watched our sister-in-law and now me (plus countless friends) traverse this “valley of the shadow of death.” My sister will greet me at the airport with a gigantic hug and hold me close while she whispers, “I love you, my sister.” And I will be glad to fold into her embrace.
Time heals all wounds. Eventually.