Dearest Rachel –
Now that it’s over, I’m not so sure it’s true.
I was told, back when I was going through the GriefShare group counseling program, that the first year without you wouldn’t actually be the worst, since one spends a good portion of it just… numb from the shock of it all, especially in sudden situations like ours. Sure, the first set of holidays without you (such as our anniversary or Christmas… even Valentine’s Day) could be wrenching, but so many of the more ordinary days pass without notice, like a series of blurs. The second year, the one left behind is in full possession of their senses throughout, having to take each day in its turn with the full understanding that the situation is not going to rectify itself. One is forced into the acceptance stage of grief for the lack of alternatives, leaving one to bear the full brunt of the absence for the entirety of the year, rather than the semi-sensate fugue state of those first few months, in particular.
At least, that’s the theory, and a reasonable one it is, I suppose. I’m just not sure that’s what happened to me.
Of course, every case is unique; the circumstances all always different, and the people lost and losing have their own ways of coping, so this isn’t something that’s carved in stone, that the second year would be harder to endure than the first. That statement, like even so many of the proverbs of scripture, is meant to be prefaced with a disclaimer along the lines of “as a general rule…” And it’s not as if I didn’t have tough moments throughout this past year; there were days of just going through the motions just to get through the day, nights when I felt the weight of… something else… on the bed, and found myself wishing it was you. It’s just that… I think by forcing myself to get on with the process – things like clearing out the piles filling the house (that you resisted doing, but knew ought to be done), going through the many memories you left behind (video footage, in particular, but also, the many pages of letters, study notes and commentary), and making arrangements to remodel the house as we had half-heartedly planned between us ever since our built-in oven gave up the ghost nearly a decade ago – within the first few months of your passing, I sent myself through the fire all at once, like ripping a large bandage off rather than trying to peel it off with excruciating slowness. So by the time the second year rolled around, what more was left to suffer?
Even the ordeal of saying goodbye to Chompers (and it was difficult to watch him go, when the time came, for all the trial he was for those eight months he lasted without you) had to be endured during that first year. I couldn’t even get a respite by taking a vacation from it all, as you know all too well. That only happened in the months after the first year had passed.
So I dare say that this year hasn’t been nearly as difficult to endure as the first.
Indeed, in certain ways, it’s been a year of accomplishments, albeit not necessarily my own. The kitchen and laundry room have been finished, and are in full operation – and I’m doing what I can to keep them clean after each use (with Kris’ assistance, of course). The yellow room, while not remodeled, has been cleaned out enough that we can have a guest stay there – even on a more permanent basis than we might have ever considered. This even has the benefit of keeping Daniel from being too absorbed into his own little worlds, as he has to share it with his friend. And on that subject, he and I have been able to travel (could you have imagined, at the time that you left us, that he would be permitted to do so at any point in the foreseeable future? I certainly couldn’t have), and now he understands the land of the Bible much the way we do… did… and is enthusiastic about his newfound comprehension.
Meanwhile, I’ve been dealing with certain issues regarding both diet and exercise (as I’ve weighed both more and less than I do at the moment over the course of these two years). Toward that end, among other things, I’ve got Lars keeping me accountable, as well as serving as a listening ear.
In short, I’d like to think I’m recovering from it all.
Then again, it may well be that I’m simply making myself busy enough to not think about these sorts of things, or worse, to no longer be bothered by them. I can sense that in my reaction (or rather, lack of reaction) to Kevin’s own sudden passing – if I can’t stay distraught about losing you (and I can’t, as life must go on), how can I get worked up about anyone else? And somehow, that doesn’t seem right.
So, have I really recovered? I don’t know. It’s probably a little of both; it’s no longer that gaping psychic wound that it once was, but there’s a lot of scar tissue that will never go away (and probably shouldn’t, even if it could), and it still hurts if I pick at it. Which I do more often that I’d like to admit; just the fact that you’re hearing from me like this every day is testimony to that.
Most annual milestones, as they are reached, are causes for celebration; birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and the like. This is not like any of those. At most, it is to be observed, recognizing the time passed since those awful moments – indeed, most of the day went so well, and we were having so much fun; none of us expected it to end as it did. If there is anything to celebrate, it is in the fact that Daniel and I have survived another year without you with our physical and mental state reasonably intact (although I’m sure that some of the things I’ve been relating to you – or even the very fact that I continue to relate everything I can to you – might lead some to conclude otherwise). Then again, considering that where you are is, I’ve been told, so much better than life here on earth could possibly be, even that cause for ‘celebration’ might not be worthy of it.
As usual, this letter seems to have meandered a bit – complete with a number of links to past letters – and it isn’t going to come to any earth-shaking conclusions, but that’s a lot like life down here; almost no one’s story wraps up with a neat little bow, where everything ties together with no loose threads. It’s messy and complicated, and it just doesn’t look like it ought to, no matter how much we might try to stage it so others think it does, and we don’t get all the answers until (or possibly, even after) it’s over.
Still, we have made it through another year. We even have a few plans for the next – although given the past few years, we probably should make allowances for God’s interference in them with His own, if only He’d be kind enough to give us a heads-up to adjust for them accordingly.
So with that in mind, honey, you know what I’m about to ask of you: please, keep an eye out for us, and wish us luck. You know we’re going to need it.