Hard to believe that it has been six months since I lost my soulmate, my anchor, my best friend. In some ways, it seems like it was yesterday. At other times, it seems like forever. Time can play tricks with your mind.
For a year-and-a-half, I watched her inexorable descent physically and mentally. There were the trips to the emergency room, the hospital stays, assisted living, memory care. All of this in the midst of the cursed pandemic, meaning I was not there with her as I should have been and the few times that I was, there was an artificial barrier between us. It was like a cruel joke. The only thing that ever separated us in 62 years of marriage was a piece of plexiglass!
Living with the loss of a loved one is a constant adjustment. You grieve. You regret the things you said or did that were unnecessary and uncalled for. But you can’t take them back and you beat yourself up for having made unnecessary mountains out of mole hills. Thank God, she always forgave me even if it is still sometimes hard to forgive myself.
Then you remember the good times. She would be the first to tell you that she had a great run. A midlife change from mother and homemaker to a college graduate with a nursing degree and a rewarding career at Delta Air Lines. Trips to her beloved vacation home at St. Simons Island. Teaching piano. Haggling over the price of a bushel of beans at the Farmers Market. (She always won.) Meeting presidents and first ladies. Her feigned indignation at being referred to in this space as “The Woman Who Shares My Name.” (Secretly, she loved it.) Her 5 p.m. “Wine Time,” a hallowed daily ritual. Her pride in being a grandmother and great-grandmother.
All of this swirls through your head. All day. Every day. Grief one minute. A good memory the next. Up and down.
And then there are all the “firsts.” The first Christmas. The first birthday. The first anniversary. The first time back at church in our old pew. The first trip to St. Simons without her. (Probably the hardest one of all.)
If you aren’t careful, you can find yourself wallowing in self-pity and making things uncomfortable for those around you who want to help but don’t know what to say or do. That is where perspective comes in.
At lunch not long after her going-home service, my grandson reminded me that while a lot of people go through what I was going through, many don’t have the strong support system I do. Out of the mouth of grandsons. Even though this grandson is a schoolteacher/coach with a Ph.D. It was a gamechanger.
I have been sustained by the care and concern from my family and my friends. I think about having to navigate this difficult journey without them. I’m not sure I could. There are the phone calls, the cards, emails, the offer to run errands, to grocery shop, to drive me wherever I need to go, to treat me to lunch. I don’t know what I have done to deserve such kindness. I think it is because I married someone who touched so many lives with her own innate kindness. I am just the beneficiary.
On our refrigerator is a magnet that says, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” It was one of her favorite sayings. We would laugh at how God was doing things in our lives that we would say were coincidental but we both knew better. We used to call them “God moments.”
While at St. Simons trying to wrestle with the memories, I agreed to accompany my daughter-in-law to a small silver shop in the village as she shopped for a bracelet.
Looking in the display case, I noticed a small sign that read, “To Life! I am living. I am blessed.” Next to it was a bracelet with the Hebrew symbol representing “Chaia,” a word meaning “life.” A coincidence? I don’t think so and neither would she. It was her way – and God’s – of telling me that she blessed my life and to now embrace every precious moment I have left on this earth.
The sign sits on my laptop and the bracelet is on my wrist. It is a daily reminder that life goes on and I must, as well. That is what she would want. I owe her that and so very much more.
• Dick Yarbrough is a four-time winner of the Best Humor Column by the Georgia Press Association. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.