“They say time heals all wounds, but that presumes the source of the grief is finite”
― Cassandra Clare, Clockwork Prince
A week ago, suddenly, unexpectedly, someone I only met and spoke to a few times (but who was part of my son’s life), passed away. She fainted in the evening and was gone the next day. She left behind a son, a granddaughter she raised, and a husband who after work, sometimes comes by to pick her up. He is a quiet, older gentleman in his 70’s.
Tonight I stepped outside to offer my condolences. I apologized for bringing up the subject, and explained I only wanted him and the family to know how sorry I was for their loss, that they are all in my thoughts and prayers, and if there was anything they needed, to please not hesitate to ask.
He sat in his car, listened and thanked me. Then there was silence. I didn’t know what else to say. He was looking at me with soft eyes, the eyes of a child almost…lost eyes that contained great dignity and an unimaginably vast grief.
Slowly, he raised his hand to his chest. “It makes me sick…here…” he said, looking down and then back up at me, unable to finish the sentence. His eyes were glistening. “Because you know, we’ve been together for many, many years, and every day I told her that I loved her.”
I don’t know what it’s like to be struck by lightning, but if I was to imagine an emotional lightning, at that moment, the sky might as well have split open, and I was struck were I stood. My eyes filled with tears in an instant, of course, and I mumbled something about how comforting it is to at least know the person we loved and lost knew how we felt about them, giving my dad as an example. And then I don’t remember what I said, or what he said, except that he thanked me again and I walked back into the house in a daze.
The grief over losing someone we love is something I would remove from this world. It’s horrible to lose parents, friends, relatives and animal companions. I know because I’ve lost many starting at a very young age. But losing a beloved partner in life is beyond horrible. The only thing worse I can think of would be losing a child.
Suddenly, I remembered that earlier I also told the gentleman I was trying to comfort that I understood his pain. And how I immediately thought to myself it was a stupid thing to say, because how can I possibly understand since I’ve never buried a spouse.
But I did understand. My statement was not premeditated or contrived. It came out of a personal experience of grief perhaps not as great, but certainly similar in nature to the one I witnessed tonight.
And I do believe many people understand this kind of grief even though whoever they love or loved didn’t die.
You see, whenever suddenly, a ring is snatched from your finger, literally or figuratively, and it’s not because you’ve been neglectful or selfish or are somehow incompatible, you might as well be going to a funeral, but without the “comfort” of knowing your beloved would have, if given a choice, stayed alive.
Tonight I really wish there was some way that people who have ever consistently turned away from or outright abandoned a loving, attentive and devoted partner could experience, even for a moment, the nature and extent of the grief left behind.
You’d think in a world where relationships suffer and eventually break up because of neglect, selfishness and incompatibility for which both partners are usually responsible, the moment you find someone who adores you, who listens to you, supports you and would do anything to make your life easier and happier….someone who fits and who brings out the best in you in every way…you’d kind of at least give it a decent shot.
But that’s not always the case. Fear, anxiety, pride, money and other considerations take precedence.
God, how I wish people could see and feel, really feel, the grief I know, have seen in friends and even strangers, and also the one I witnessed tonight. Not as revenge or punishment, but as a gift of grace that would break them out of their own cages.
And anyone else who might even remotely consider using another person without taking responsibility for what they receive, without following through with honesty and grateful effort, without stepping up to the plate so-to-speak once they make a commitment of any kind. They too should see and feel.
I know that if it were possible, we would see fewer, if any, hearts unspeakably shattered…or betrayals, backs turned to partners crying themselves to sleep, choosings of fear, convenience, money or whatever else over love, tenderness, courage and honor. And I also know there would be quite a few reunions, regardless of time-frame or circumstances.
Unfortunately, it’s not possible. So tonight it’s just this post about me standing in a dark street, and an elderly gentleman who sat in his car, and his unimaginable grief meeting my lesser one. It made me realize how rare love actually is, how precious the grief itself in a way…and how wasted both can be.
But in the end, either way, each grief like this seems to me a grief too many. I wish I could remove all of them from this world.