I was driving around town the other day and I suddenly became aware of my thoughts. You know how when you're driving sometimes it's kind of by rote, and you forget how you got where you were going because you're so busy chewing on some memory or idea in your head?
I paused at a stoplight and looked around. I realized I had been thinking about Mike. Nothing too specific, just allowing random memories to float through my mind; remembering what it was like to ride in the car with him, imagining how he would comment on the view, or some annoying driver on the road, or try and get me to stop somewhere for lunch. He loved driving around this island; he loved just going for a ride.
At that moment it wasn't a deeply sad series of thoughts; I wasn't crying - though the idea that he is really gone is still ping-ponging its way around my brain for sure. I was just thinking about him.
Then, I started thinking about thinking about him. The idea that for the rest of my life, he would be in my head, and in my heart. That he would never be completely gone from my consciousness. That he would always be a part of me. No matter where I go; no matter who I'm with; no matter what I'm doing - he's always there.
It's not an easy thing to come to terms with. It's not an easy thing to live with, all the time, anyway. Maybe it's even a little disconcerting the first time you realize the thoughts, ideas, emotions, feelings, and memories of our loved one will be with usforever - even though they are physically gone.
It's also not a bad thing, I think. I feel happy I got to know this man. I feel lucky I got to be married to him, and learn from him. I'm glad I got to take care of him, and accompany him on this last leg of his journey here. I'm glad I have the memories, and never want to lose them.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the stages of grief. Maybe the acceptance stage, which comes and goes, contains an aspect of this realization. That our spouses will never be erased from our life; they will never be forgotten, they will never be completely gone. Maybe part of the process of recovering from our loss is learning to live with this new compartment in our heart. The sometimes empty, haunting one; the sometimes laugh-out-loud at a memory one; the sometimes sad and lonely one. Maybe I need to make room for this, and make a peace with it.
I can't see any other way around it, but through. Let's go for a ride, Mike.