45 Days to Go: A Lament

It’s June 4, 2020. Just 45 days until it has been a year since you died. I can’t believe I’ve lived so long without you. And yet, that is what my life will always be now — lived without you. The thought tears me wide open. I miss you like it was yesterday. 

I know you’d be proud of me. How I’ve held our family together. How I’ve stepped up to the challenge of doing this on my own. How I’ve found my voice. How I’ve fiercely cared for our kids like you always told me to. I’ve done all the things we talked about. I’ve honored you at every moment the very best I could. I have loved you with every breath.

But I don’t want to have to make you proud. I want you here with me. I just want to be me. The me that was with you, that was a part of you. The me that didn’t care about accomplishments or achievements because being loved by you was the only thing I ever really longed for. The me that found my purpose and joy in loving you and loving our family. I would give back every new opportunity, every accomplishment, to have you here with me again.

I don’t know how to move forward without you. I think I’ve found a path and then it feels empty. Or worse, I find a dead end. Everything is just an end where I still find you dead. Life means something different to me now without you here. It propels me forward, but many days all I really want to do is grieve. Weep and wail like those women who cast themselves on their husbands’ funeral pyres. I want to feel the weight of the loss of you. Let the loss consume me like loving you consumed my heart. I take comfort that your absence still pierces me through. I carry this sorrow close to my heart. It is a precious testimony to how much I will always love you.

In just seven weeks, I will no longer be a “new widow.” This life I’m still discovering without you will no longer be fresh, uncharted. It will be a painfully familiar road, one where each day I remember the twists and turns of the year before. I never wanted to travel this road once. But now, as I approach the year mark of your death, I realize it is a road I will travel every year for the rest of my life. Like those old fashioned cars at the fair that run with tracks beneath them, my life will forever run this course. A road always marked by the loss of you. Every day, another day further away from you and the life we loved together.

I want to believe that every day further away from you is also another day closer too. I long for you with every ounce of my being. We may be one flesh severed in body, but I carry you within my heart until the glorious day of our promised reunion. When hand in hand we will worship before the throne, rejoicing in all that is finally made new. So shall we ever be with the Lord. That promise is what keeps me going. You are at the end of this race I am still running. I remember your eyes when I crossed that finish line back in Chicago so long ago. Someday, I’ll recognize you by those smiling eyes. You’ll know me by my tears.

Last night, I walked out to the pond on this property that we’d hoped would be the “ten year plan” home. I stood on the bridge, watching the painted turtles slip into the water and the frogs send up bubbles from the muddy bottom. I looked back at our house that has felt like an empty shell ever since I returned to it without you. This house that in a few short weeks I’ll sell. A white flag of surrender. There are some things that are so hard I choose not to do them without you beside me. There are so many hard things. So much to grieve. So much to leave behind. 

I don’t know what I’m doing; I’m learning as I go. But I will keep going. You knew I would. I cling to your words like a life preserver: ““I love her, and I know she will make wise decisions if I am no longer able to be at her side.” I say your words over and over to myself like a mantra. Your love, my source of strength. I’m still smart, strong, independent, fiercely loyal — all those things you always said you loved about me. I still want to live to be 96 and see our children’s children’s children. I’m tenacious like that. I will tell them how much you would have loved them. I’ll do it. Every day. Even through my tears.

And I will believe that God’s love for me is nothing short of infinite. Even in this sorrow, I will choose to trust that good things were planned for me long ago. Days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. My steps are ordered. I wish that you were going to be part of those days. I know that, in some way, you always will be. Still, it makes my heart ache. I did not want to spend my life with you only in memory.

I used to think the veil was thin when we stood shoulder to shoulder, hands outstretched to receive the bread and wine. Tears would stream down my face, and you would reach out and pull me close and hold my hand as the words poured over us like blessing. Clarissa, Christ’s blood shed for you. Rob, Christ’s body broken for you.

Now, when I attend the table alone, I will trust that I can still find you there too. Your face, my beloved, in the great cloud of witnesses. When we recite these words and remember these truths, His name and yours will ever be on my lips. I believe in the communion of saints. The forgiveness of sins. The resurrection of the body. The life of the world to come. For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

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