It’s been too hard to put fingers to keys. After so much pouring of words, I have had to accept a silence in my hands, and a cacophony in my heart.
While I have been accepting, I have offered words elsewhere. It seems this great privilege of which we took advantage – and took for granted – was more fresh than we even knew. Assisted death is so young in Canada. The dialogue around related experience is just getting started. And I find myself in the thick of this conversation, wanting to offer my experience but also mindful that it both settles and challenges my peace.
This week I was a presenter in a webinar on supporting assisted death. And I found myself the odd person out. While the other loved ones were significantly older than my husband, the peace they found before and in death still rattles me. Sure, I have felt Beardo’s peace since he passed. But I want to take him by the shoulders and shake him, and show him these other peaceful people. People who made their spouses toast on the day they died. People who sang songs in their last days, quietly to themselves. Mind you, there was a song over a cake . . . So what is the hard part about a comparison of the discontent I witnessed, with all of this other peace found through assisted death? Well its selfish really. Because it is about me.
The discontent. The anger. The pillow between us. It was a truth, and the best that could be done. But it has meant that the only person I can look upon now, is me. I have to walk past the absences. Let them fall through that doing of best. Let past best lay, and find a new version.
In the silence of my hands, I have been meditating on soulmates and grief.
Elizabeth Gilbert says we are not to spend our lives with a soulmate, as it would be too painful. These are people who turn us to the mirror and depart.
Is grief a soulmate? Should we let it show us to ourselves, and allow it to find its way?
I have to turn from the computer after putting down these words, as they have asked themselves so repeatedly over weeks that I don’t want to pick up the layers of answers. I am afraid.
But I do have some answers for these questions. Yes. I do.
The first answer feels harsh and cold, but it is also my truth. My husband is no longer tangible. He is all around me, in stories and tangible things. In the protective energy that allows me to sleep with the light off. In the words of songs, that seem to tell of his extended wisdom. He is all around, and not at all. The only going forward, is my own. And so to sit still with his absence serves no purpose. The only truth is the one I see in the mirror; this current view of (my)self.
What of the work I have not done? What of who I have yet to become? What holes and light both shine, now that I am without my husband? That is the truth of what is left. It is Gilbert’s look in the mirror, and grief has turned me to it.
This peace of which I have learned, that others found in dying, it also turns me to a mirror. There were things I could not do because I was walking alongside discontent. There was a person I could not be. Closure I could not find. Bravery I had to grab all on my own. Voids that came my way. Trips and falls that were frightfully clumsy.
“Were there things you would do differently if you could go back? Regrets?” asked a listener during the webinar. None of us had any regrets. Not a single one of the four speakers. There cannot be regret because it was not about us. And so the words of my husband echo again, “I am doing the best that I can.” Me too. I did too. And so it should not be what I see in the mirror, as today is a different kind of best.
Here is the hardest piece, today. Hardest peace. My discontent now lives because the grief of others has turned me to my mirror as well. In order to carry my own living – to grieve as feels right for me – I cannot support the grief of others who also loved Chris. Why? I am only able to answer that because I am just now, letting words run through my fingers. Finally.
The grief of others is in my mirror. And after a lifetime of giving care, I see my work. I see the necessity of choice, the truth of stepping in front. And I see that while it offers me more absence, I must step. The alternative is to move backwards, well past regret. The alternative is to allow another voice to cover my own. My mistruth would be to stand still and be less of me, rather than more. Or to walk again, alongside discontent other than my own. And it’s my husband who is holding the mirror.
I am in a round mirror, much like a ride at the fair in childhood. No husband, no gift of peaceful passage, and connection that no longer serves me. Here I am.