Six months have now passed since that morning in January when the hospital called me. My level of denial was attested to by the cold flush that I felt as the news was received in my psyche. Despite being told, and after watching the progressive reduction in the necessary human function that supports life, I didn’t want to believe she would die.
Intellectually, I allowed the possibility to dance in the shadows, but I felt that if I gave it any more credence, I was tacitly agreeing it was a foregone conclusion, and in some way I was making it happen.
During the term of her illness, we were all put under severe stress. Possibly the worst part of the situation was the uncertainty about what would be the outcome, so, when the phone call came it was dreadful relief. The shock placed an insulating layer around me which permitted the essential actions only, I went into emotional ‘limp-mode’. Somehow, I managed to call the right people, who gave me the right information. During the first week I took care of the childrens’ immediate and pressing needs, I registered the death, I arranged the death certificate, I notified the government, I began funeral arrangements. Certain people stepped up at this time, some were worse than useless, but somehow it all got done with me only partially present.
There was an ever-present feeling of nausea in the pit of my stomach. The knowledge that I had to eat sat in the back of my mind like a sentinel, a grave but benevolent imperative. We wandered around the house like stunned wraiths, spontaneously crying at odd moments, giving each other tacit comfort by familiar presence.
A certainty came to me that the children needed to continue with routine so I made sure they got to school. One of the most pressing pieces of business during my wife’s illness, had been to make sure they were all at school as close to the house as possible. Without this, I would not have been able to cope. The person who made that possible, deserves mention here, she applied pressure on the lazy, inefficient drones at the council, and got action. The same person visited my wife regularly during her illness, going over and above her official duties to ensure bureaucratic boxes were ticked. Thank you.
The funeral company informed me that they couldn’t fit us in until a month after the death. The period became a stasis. We felt like we were in a waiting room before the main event. The kids went to school, I arranged the things I needed to do. The life insurance company paid out which relieved the debt burden, it is hard to imagine how I would have managed without the money to settle my business accounts and complete the work on the house. No early retirement, but somewhere to live while I work out the future.
The funeral was well attended by family and friends. Some people spoke, reading what they had written about my wife. It was difficult to find words to describe how I felt, or to portray her and our relationship, without getting too personal and straying into dangerous emotional territory. A couple of years ago I had a very brief affair with a married client of mine. More accurately, I fell in love with a lady for the first time in my life. When my wife found out she got very angry, her possessive nature came to the fore with force and I couldn’t continue with the relationship as it stood. We continued co-parenting our children and then she fell ill. My business became impossible to manage, my wife had been responsible for the accounts but she wasn’t able to focus any more, she couldn’t drive the kids to school, after a while she couldn’t write text messages either. More and more of the burden landed on me and I had to let go of work in order to manage the family instead. For obvious reasons, my eulogy couldn’t include these matters, or the fact that despite being married for fifteen years, we had fought and argued for most of that time. Although we had three children together, and bought two properties together, and managed our business together, we had very different philosophies of life and sparks flew. This aspect of our life together was mentioned but not dwelt upon in my writing, the main thrust was about the things that she loved, and how she would be missed, honest but safe.
Listening to other people talk about her I was surprised to hear their perceptions. My children and I speak about this often, we do not recognise the person they described, so different was the side she showed to others. We wonder how they would have felt had they known the things she did to punish her children. Arbitrary rules and cruel retribution, offers made and withdrawn on a whim, the children bear scars from her lack of consistency in parenting. When they were very young she hit them with various implements, thin canes from the garden, mobile-phone charger cables, metal rulers. This went on because of her inability to accept that they are people, it revealed how she had been disciplined by her mother, it showed the depth of cruelty that existed in her. This display showed me that I was with a person that I didn’t want to live with.
Many of our arguments were about the children. She knew that it was the best way to get to me, another reason why her death came as a relief. Our connection was deep, it went beyond the understandable surface of liking a person, it was strong and enduring, I called it love because I lacked another term to describe it. The power of it felt ancestral, as if it had existed for all time and was unbreakable. We discussed how we had met and why the draw was immediate, magnetic, and strong. After the affair we decided that this was the last time we would do this to each other, no more reincarnations of mother/daughter, father/son, husband/wife etc. this lifetime would be the last.
After she died, I stopped feeling her presence. It seemed that she had truly gone and wouldn’t be back. It is true that I miss her sometimes, I am glad that her suffering is over for this life, but she has been a fact of my life for fifteen years, and with my track record of relationships that is a record that beats the next longest by a factor of five. She brought stability to my life. She gave me three children who have anchored me in this world, holding me in one place so that life can do its thing with me. It is apparent now that she had completed her stated intention with regards to me.
This is among the many realisations that have jumped into my awareness while I meditate, she existed as an elemental being in my life. Her visit was temporary, and as its message was delivered she faded away. As I kissed her pale, cold forehead in the hospital room when we went to say goodbye, and my tears wet my cheeks, a sudden understanding came to me. It felt like the time I looked down from the bungee-jumping cage and knew that I was way out of my depth. She ushered me into lands unknown, leading me reluctantly into the world of adulthood, characterised by children, mortgages, and other grown-up matters, and then she left, Dumbo without his feather.
But, I am capable. There has been growth during the past fifteen years, she acknowledged this during one of our discussions during her illness. It turns out that, my legs do reach the ground, I can fly without the feather. It is true that I am very scared, but I have faith in God. There have been many times during my life when I doubted myself, but my trust in the power of the divine is unshakeable. There is a future, it is bright. She is gone, leaving only memories, scars, residual ideas.
At different times I hated her, loved her, deeply respected her, liked her. We traveled together, had children together, worked together, fought, grew. Sometimes I feel that I have cried for the last time over her, but now i am crying again. My sorrow over her last year, my guilt that this beautiful house we live in only came into being because she died, the things that I did to hurt her seemingly because she challenged me to try and hurt her.
And now, the icy shock has somewhat thawed away, the feeling is coming back to my heart. My grief at the loss of a friend and fellow traveler can be expressed more easily. It was recommended that I contact a grief group, somewhere I can share with others who have lost people close to them. Every day I read the messages on the group chat and feel that they are not like me. Maybe I am in a different kind of denial now, perhaps I am feeling the same things as them and not allowing myself to know, but I feel they are missing the point of the person that they have lost. These people came to teach and now are gone, rather than mourn their passing every day it is better to see the message that they came to deliver, and to live that. Dwelling on feelings will waste life.
It is not my place to tell anyone how to live their life, so I don’t post on the group chat. They all met the other day, the thought of discussing the death of my wife stopped me from attending the gathering. Maybe this will change, although I think that is unlikely. For now I will carry on bringing up my children, leading them through their lives until they can look back and see that their grief is manageable. We discuss their mother and her ways regularly, they have good perspective. We have a new kitten and a new puppy living with us now, and the kids are happy to have these new additions in the house. The animals make the children happy, and for me this is priceless. My rules and discipline give them routine and stability, they can live knowing what causes the effect, they are generally happy, and so am I.
Six months on and this is where we are.