This piece was written for my newspaper column, Reflections, less than three weeks after Bill died in 2010.

It is now three weeks since Bill crossed death's threshold. Spring has arrived here in Spring Green, Wisconsin. The cardinal has taken over our Maple tree perching himself at the very top each day and announcing his territorial claim with birdsong. In the back yard, the rabbit races across the yard when our dog, Bentley, chases him. The rabbit knows exactly where the hole is that gets him beneath the fence. S/he created that escape route. Birds of all kinds empty the feeders on an almost daily basis. A dear friend gave me a new birdbath in Bill’s honor and it now graces our yard along with the one left to me by my Dad and next to these feeders. The yard is alive with birdsong. The trees are budding and the sun is higher in the sky.
All of these make my heart smile for a brief moment. I think of how we both love/d spring. We could hardly wait to get out to the hills and soak up its beauty. The cycle of life goes on. Spring arrives in all its glory and soon summer will present herself with the fullness of life. When the leaves fall from the trees next autumn in preparation for winter, the cycle will once more have completed itself. Over and over again…dawn to dawn, spring to winter, and birth to death to birth. The wheel keeps turning. People come into our lives and people leave our lives.

One of the hospice workers told me that in our relationships we are like two pieces of paper. Some people are paper clipped together, leaving only a slight dent when the other dies. Others, stapled tightly, leave holes in both. “Bill and you,” she said, “were glued from top to bottom. There is no way he can leave without tearing and ripping and destroying you in some way.” She was right. His death means I will never be the same. A part of me is gone...the old me is gone... I am, indeed, torn, ripped and destroyed in so many ways.
I remember seeing a post-World War II sculpture in Rotterdam back in the early 70s. Russian artist Ossip Zadkine produced the work in bronze after witnessing the devastation and destruction of Rotterdam’s city centre after German bombs rained down in World War II.  Zadkine had been in Paris and came to the Netherlands to visit a friend, and passing by the ruined city was shocked at seeing what was little was left of the centre first-hand. The sculpture has been a landmark feature in the city since it was unveiled in 1953. In Dutch it’s known by two names: “De Verwoeste Stad” (The Destroyed City) and “Stad zonder hart” (City without a heart). In the statue where the heart would have been is a large hole that represents the destruction of Rotterdam’s heart. The figure clearly represents pain, the arms are outstretched to the sky in agony. It’s a compelling image
Though it has been almost 40 years since I have seen that sculpture, I have never forgotten it. I saw it before I ever met my husband Bill and little did I comprehend at the time, the depth of the pain it represents. I know that hole now. Those of you who have lost a spouse or a child or someone else essential to your life, know this hole also. And though the birds chirp and the children play happily today, the hole in us remains. It is there when we converse with friends and when we are alone with our tears. It is always there. We may look like we are totally present but in reality we are not. Perhaps it is that way forever. Maybe the hole diminishes in size over time but we know, we who have loved deeply and lost, we know it will never heal completely. We will never be the same. The grief will be there forever.
I know that gratitude for the depth of the love Bill and I shared helps a bit. But the pain overwhelms my gratitude right now.

Is gratitude enough?

Nothing is enough. But remembering to be grateful is a tiny bit of salve in that gaping hole.
Reflection:
What do you do to comfort yourself and heal your grief?

Regarding:
  general grief, spousal loss, grief work, loss

Resources:
The Hole Left by Grief by Samantha Sage (Hello, Grief)

Grieving a Loss Can Leave a Hole in Your Heart

 


Comments

Anne Gorman
06/29/2014 10:54am

Beautifully stated, Mary. How well I know about that hole. Thank you for putting into words what I feel. Your maple tree is still one of the most beautiful trees I've seen. Spring = Hope.

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06/30/2014 10:32am

Thank you, Anne. I do know that the hole left in our hearts is also one you know too well. Thank you for reading my blog.

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06/30/2014 10:16am

Yes, Mary, the holes in our hearts remain forever, in the size and shape of the ones we've loved and lost, and I've come to believe that the only thing that can fill those holes is love. Blessings to you for sharing your experience and your wisdom with all of us. ♥

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06/30/2014 10:34am

Thank you, Marty. Hopefully my experience can help someone else. It was interesting, as I perused old columns, to see what I wrote four years ago. It has been a long road of growing, healing, loving.

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06/30/2014 11:09am

Amazing that you could write with such focus just three weeks after Bill's death. I look back at those times and think that if I survived that, I can survive now. Amazing sculpture in contrast to the beautiful tree. I feel both. My hole is still there, but somehow I'm used to carrying it and it's a comfort to know that I remember and always well. (Tears come when I write those words.) I loved Bentley's romp, too, and I was so grateful Vic died in the spring because I felt the pull of life despite the closeness of death. Thank you for another beautiful, heartfelt post.
Elaine

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06/30/2014 11:22am

Dear Elaine, I was pretty surprised when I pulled this up and read it and saw that I was able less than 3 weeks later to write a column. I believe I was in such a deep fog and that is how I was able to write it. I was so used to doing a weekly column after many years that I think I went into robot mode. The hole is still within me also and always will be, that I NOW know for certain. Bill died the week before Easter (which was also my 70th birthday that year). I know he would have liked having his death as Holy Week began. I agree with you about remembering. I somehow remember everything that happened that week...including his death. But most of the rest of the year is a foggy blur. Thank you for commenting, Elaine.

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I pray and wish you all the success through this awesome journey.

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09/02/2014 5:07am

I pray and wish you all the success through this awesome journey.

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Support is very important for every person if a person have not the support then he cannot able to make their life successful. Without the support the people cannot able to make their name in the country.

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