When Megan died, i went into full sensory deprivation mode. I could no longer see her face, hear her voice, taste her lips, smell her body wash, or touch her skin. When suddenly, all five of my senses were deprived of their primary stimulant, I became numb. I would venture to say that this is the case for most widows and widowers.
Largely, I believe this explains the “fog” that so many of us have and are experiencing. We become lethargic, depressed, stressed, absent-minded, and unaware of our own surroundings. Place anyone in an isolation chamber, widowed or not, and eventually, a similar fog will creep in.
These senses are independent of each other, and each of them are 20% of a whole experience. When all I wished for was to talk to Megan and hear her voice, I honestly would have been just as happy to see her smile or feel her hug. But it’s never enough. I could sit and fantasize about her returning to visit from the other side, all the while knowing that whether she was here for 5 minutes, 5 days, or 5 years, it would never have been enough time or sensory stimulation.
If I had been able to hear her, I still would have wanted to see her. Had I got both of those, I still would have wanted to hug her and feel her wrapped in my arms again. Then still, i would have wanted to smell the cucumber melon lotion that she always wore, and taste the mint toothpaste on her lips that I tasted every morning for 12 years. Only then, i felt, could my heart be 100% full.
Which brings me to Sarah and I’s relationship. When the two of us are in each other’s presence, my senses fire on all cylinders, just as they did with Megan. Yes, there are different sights, smells, sounds, etc., but just the same, my heart is whole, and life is easy. As has been the case though, eventually, we have to return to our respective homes for a month or so, relegated back into talking on the phone or Skype.
So at best, two-fifths of my senses are stimulated when we’re apart. I am finding, just as I said above, that those two senses, sight and hearing, overcompensate to try their damndest to add up to a whole experience, with the lack of taste, touch, and smell. We talk at least twice as much, just to hear each other’s voices that much more, hoping that any extra syllables might compensate for the lack of just being able to hug. We become pixels on a screen...tiny bits of electronic data, arranged in such a way that it looks very much like each other. Many times, I don’t even want to look away to glance at the TV, because of some irrational feeling that those little pixels are somehow pouring into my heart and filling it even more.
What I’ve learned from Megan’s death however, is that sometimes, I need to be thankful for the fact that even one or two of my senses can be used over the distance. I would still walk to the ends of the earth just to wave goodbye to Megan, and be able to see her smile and wave back, or to be able to hear her voice, if only once more, and know that everything is OK. Hell, I would even take the random smell of her lotion wafting through the house as a sign that she’s happy and at peace. Any one of those sense I would be thankful to have.
What I'm discovering though, is that love itself is what ultimately compensates for any lack of sensory stimulation. It's the wild card. When all I had was my love for Megan, without any other senses to be stimulated by her, it made sure that chamber of my heart was still full. It's what ultimately kept my other senses from becoming atrophied, and prevented me from shutting down. Just as with Sarah, when we can't be together, it's my love for her that fills in for the remaining senses, ensuring that her space in my heart is again, full.
Knowing that my heart can be full in the absence of other senses, whether by death or distance, has allowed me to face the future bravely, and with confidence. All I need is love.