Sunday, January 13, 2013

A Year Gone By

So it’s been a year.
I don’t really understand the idea of a year being the official time period for recovery. 
Certainly there are milestones within the year that mark its passage.  Birthdays, holidays, and anniversaries are all contained there.  But up to now these were all important only to the living.
This year past is most certainly gone.  The one to come is most certainly here. 
Years aren’t really big on waiting for us to catch up are they?
I made a lot of plans this year.  None of them came to fruition.  In retrospect it’s much better that way. 
I woke up on New Year’s Day, the day she died, and it was just New Year’s Day.
I woke up on January 2, which was once our anniversary, but it was just the day after New Year’s Day.
And there were tears.  A lot of salt was shed, but not wasted.
There was so much more lost than I realized, and much that I was forced to give up.
It’s never easy.
There have been so many times earlier in the year where I would walk into the house expecting to see her, and then I would remember, “Oh that’s right, she’s not here anymore.  She’s really gone.”
Then, one night a few months after she died, I had a dream. 
Usually my dreams are fairly unremarkable, and I seldom remember very much about them.  This one was profoundly different, and I believe it was more than just a dream.
I was in a condominium that we had rented several years earlier.  Sue was there and we were just going through our home and doing normal everyday chores.  We were working together happily and accomplishing things together.  This never happened in reality.
I realized as I looked at her that I saw in her face what I had always wanted to see.
She was free from pain.  She knew she was loved.  
She was happy.
I saw the Sue who existed beneath all the layers of garbage the world had piled upon her over the years that I could never clear away for her.
It felt good to be in her presence.
In the midst of this dream I was struck by the realization I had in my waking moments when I walked into the house and realized that she was gone.  At first I was confused, but then I realized that I wasn’t in the real world although it was a place I would have liked to stay. I was conscious that this was a dream.
I turned to her and I said,
“You realize that you’re not really supposed to be here, don’t you?”
She looked at me with a sad smile and said,
“I know.  I love you all.”
And I woke up.
Many will tell me that it was just a dream that my mind created to resolve the issues I had related to her death. I’m a psychologist; I know all the explanations and rationalizations. I don’t care.
I’m convinced it was real.
I have said that the two things Sue needed in life were to know that she was truly loved, and to be free from pain.
I now know that she has both of these things.  This has allowed me to live my life.  I will grieve this loss at different times; that is the way of grief.  My parents died when I was a teenager and I still feel that loss. 
But I am better able to live my life now knowing that she’s ok.
I believe this was a gift to me and my family from her and God.  I believe this was her way of taking care of us in the best way she could.
Life is different now, and I can now say without guilt that it is in many ways better, because she is no longer suffering.
I understand that it was never within the scope of my abilities to make her well.  I could only support her in her own efforts.  She had to make the choice as I could not make decisions for her.  I could not think for her.  My guilt came from my inability to change her for the better.
Because the reality is that I can never change another person.  That is an ability that God reserves for Himself and each of us individually.  I might be able to instigate change, or support change, but it is ultimately a conscious individual choice, and one that my wife did not make. And this is what I will always mourn.  My greatest struggle was that she was never able to understand how much I, and everyone else, truly loved her.  I miss what could have been, and never was, but what I always hoped for.
This has been a year where I have learned a great deal about my limits. 
I learned that I am incapable of saving anyone.
I have learned that my way is not always the best way.  I’m learning to hold back rather than simply run over everyone else’s feelings.  This is a work in progress by the way.
I’m learning generosity, and grace.  Lots of grace, because I use so much of it for myself.  It is absolutely essential for my survival.
I am slowly learning to be content with what I have instead of taking what I want.  I have come to understand that while I have less than some, I still have far more than most.
And finally, I am beginning to see the effect real love has on real life.  I see that often we use things and people as temporary placeholders, or substitutes, while we wait for the real thing to come along.  I can do without until the real thing shows up, and I will be better for it.
When I say, “I love you” to someone, I mean it.  They are not merely three words.
My family and friends are more than necessary.  Life without them would literally be hell.
I miss my wedding ring.  I miss being able to twist it on my finger and feel the reassurance that I was bound to someone else.  I miss knowing that regardless of how she felt about me at any given moment there was still an underpinning of love for me alone.
Despite all that I miss, God is making me whole again.  It’s a process, but a process made easier by the fact that I now understand the meaning of commitment.
He needs me to pursue Him.  He needs me to find my meaning in what He asks of me, rather than what I want.  To find my great value that never changes in His eyes, regardless of what anyone else might think of me. 
There is no greater gift.
I’m running the race again.
So, it’s been a year.
© Dan Bode 2013