Princess Diana's brother, Charles Spencer, who delivered his sister's eulogy was interviewed on the CBS News Sunday Morning show today (March 15, 2015). In the course of the interview he said (in response to interviewer Tracy Smith's statement "It has been close to 20 years." "Yeah, I met someone the other day who was so interesting, she had actually lost her sister in a car crash, in fact the same time. And I said, 'How is it for you?' And she said, 'Well, the pain's the same, it's just the tears are less.' And that's very profound."
Each year when February arrives, my mind travels back to 1965, the year my brother was ordained a Catholic priest. In an Irish Catholic family, especially back then, having a priest in the family was (and still is) a great honor. My mom and dad were thrilled and proud as their many siblings, families and friends attended the ceremony and his first Mass the next day.
There are transitions and then...there are transitions. The transition from elementary school to high school is, in hindsight, not as big as it seemed back then. Nor is the transition from age 69 to 70. However, life is full of many kinds of transitions. Becoming a quadriplegic after being an athlete (or not) demands adjustments that are beyond the imaginations of most of us. Moving from being a single person to being a married person, though exciting and joy-filled, is also a large change in our lives...one that demands a daily commitment. Moving into retirement years is big, but for many/most of us it is eventually, if not immediately, a positive experience. Then there is the transition of living without someone you love deeply. These transitions from being a joyfully married person to being a widow/er or from being the parent of a happy toddler to losing that toddler to an accident or disease are about as difficult as transitions can get. Finally there is the transition we call aging which, if you think about it, starts the minute we are born, but which we don't think much about until we get into our 70s or even 80s.
Little did I know when Bill sat at the edge of Cutler Creek writing this poem that just five years later, (in 2005), I would be drawing on my own persistence in order to forge ahead as we struggled with his diagnosis of Alzheimer's and as I ultimately struggled following his death in 2010. I can't say I am undaunted as is Cutler Creek but I can say that I will never give up.
Bill loved that creek. It was behind our mountain home in Colorado. At night we would listen to it as we drifted off to sleep. I frequently found him sitting there listening to the sounds it created especially when the mountain snow was melting in the spring. Or he might be writing a poem, watching eagles soar or just soaking up mountain beauty.
Following a loss, we attempt to describe what follows using words and phrases that include grief recovery, moving on, moving forward, healing our grief, healing our lives and more. People ask us how we are doing? Some really want to know. Others...not so much. Many tell us how we are doing or how we look or act. Many wish us well and it comes from deep in their hearts.
As for me, I have not found a word or phrase that accurately describes the journey and pain that follows a significant loss.
I was talking to a talented artist friend who has painted, sculpted and taught art all her life. Now at 86 she is working on a huge triptych and said as she showed it to me. "It might take me three years or the rest of my life to do. I don't think about that. Working on it is just delicious."
I was truly happy for her but I also felt a surge of pain knowing I have not yet found something that feels delicious since Bill died. I said to her after looking at her work, "Bill was my delicious. Now I wrestle with the hole left in my heart and life. Bill and I enjoyed hiking, biking, road trips, cooking....and so much more together...even cleaning the garage had its delicious moments. But none of those feel delicious without him. I have experienced good moments, even hints of delicious but so far that incredible feeling of total and joyous absorption into something; art, music or another person, is not yet mine. "