“So which one are you,” my counsellor asked, “when he is angry or silent?” We had been talking about my role as both wife and caregiver. I knew the answer immediately. “I’m neither,” I said. “I am a cup. I hold air, and putrid fluid. I don’t want to absorb either. And eventually I want to put the cup down.”
I was your caregiver before I was your wife, and I believe I actually gave you those words when you were flesh. And for days after you died I just kept saying out loud that I was grieving your anger and my care, so that I could grieve you as a wife.
“Tell me more about putting a water glass out for him at night . . . . ” prompted our holistic cancer coach. I was busy and did not reply to her right away. When noting that I had not forgotten her question, she suggested I answer it in a blog. I grinned as I typed, and said that I loved such guidance. Then it hit me later, as I was brushing my teeth. The glass . . . The cup.
I think it was just a day or two before you passed when I decided that I would continue to fill your usual water glass each night. I told you my plan. Like most things at that point, you silently absorbed. At the time I craved a response but am now glad for your silence, as you simply allowed me.
So I did as I intended. I tried to fill your water glass at or around 7pm each night. And I emptied it each morning. But just two days ago I decided it was time to wash the glass, remove the last traces of your saliva from its edge. I could feel the need for this ritual dissipating.
I wanted to extend my care for you. To you. I wanted to help you pass, further. I wanted to grieve you, truly grieve you. I didn’t want you to be gone. I wanted to honour you. I wanted your struggle to be over, but I struggled after you were over. I wanted a ritual.
I was told to empty all of the water vessels soon after you passed. They held death. I had already emptied your cup, but knew I would fill it again. Repeatedly. It is the peace in this house though, that gently faded the ritual.
And then the question. Say more about the filling of the water glass. It’s like when my counsellor says he sees something more in my eyes, beyond what I am saying. He questions, without a question mark. I pause. What more is there to say about the ritual of filling my husband’s water glass after he is no longer here? I want to honour him. What else am I feeling that I have not already poured onto the floor between me and my counsellor?
I thought I was honouring you in all of the ways I have just described, but I was also honouring myself. Emptying the cup. Putting the cup down. No more silence and anger for me, on me. Carried by me. Each time I filled and emptied your glass – your cup – it was the release of your anger . . . the anger of a 40 year old man dying before he brought his full joy . . . the release of the care I extended to you . . . extended into an unknown . . . Each time I emptied and filled your cup I was moving closer to the grief I was meant to feel, as your wife.
The day I cleaned your water glass I also visited my counsellor. It was the first time I had spoken with him since you passed. It was good to say all of the things that needed to be said into that secure space between, but it also drained me. I was empty. And that night the peace parted. Like waters. I saw your picture – your joy, as you sung All By Myself over your 41st birthday candles – and I missed you. I grieved my husband. Because I could.