It would probably seem torturous to many people. And it is, I suppose. But sometimes I feel so empty, so without Chuck, so numb, so filled with absence, that I seek them out so that I can feel again, right down to my gut, even if the feeling is deep sadness.
Them being videos on youtube of military funerals. With the recent anniversary of the assassination of JFK, I found myself watching a replay of his funeral, gazing steadfastly at the empty saddle of the horse in the forefront of the cortege, boots turned backwards. I stared at Jackie Kennedy, the dramatic black veil covering her to her shoulders. Felt my heart break when John John saluted at the prompting of his mom.
With youtube the videos rage on endlessly and I view them just as endlessly, my heart in my throat, tears pouring down my face.
A pregnant military widow presses her stomach against her husband’s flag-draped coffin. Notification officers arrive at homes to deliver the news, doors slammed in their faces. I study them, too, and wonder at their psychological well-being; what do they do to decompress? I feel in my bones the determination they surely feel as they carry such horrifying news to military families, and the honor of standing with the families.
Widows. They fascinate me. Which means, I guess, that I fascinate me.
I read about widows. (the word is inclusive regarding men, in my book). I speak to them and listen to them and study them as if they are bugs under a microscope. They are a mystery to me; one that is not meant to be solved, necessarily, just studied.
You are a mystery to me. I am a mystery to me.
Widows are people, of course, from all walks of life, and widowhood doesn’t raise us to sainthood. We’re still humans, I think. We experience the full range of human emotions, with a heavy dose that comes from what grief does to us and our known world. We do, right?
My rapt study of widows is, of course, nothing more than a possibly fruitless attempt to know myself. To recognize the me that the world sees. Or at least to recognize what I think the world sees. Which is, you know, a normal person. Because if I’m like every other widow I know, I’m fairly certain I appear pretty damn normal to the world at large. I know what lies beneath, however, and it is that true visage that I’m looking for in my study of widows. But what lies inside and underneath that normal outside of me and every other widow is what keeps me watching.
I can feel Jackie Kennedy’s trauma as she walks in front of her husband’s funeral cortege. I can feel the surge of grief each military widow feels as she accepts the flag from the honor guard captain kneeling in front of her. I can feel the searing pain fill my chest as another widow clutches that flag to her heart. Tears instantly burn my eyes and throat as Taps rings out. My body reacts with a startle reflex each time I hear a 21-gun salute, even though I brace myself beforehand.
What is left, widow-wise, of emotions? Will this weighted feeling, this heaviness, ever not be the biggest part of me? Will I ever feel whimsical again? Passionate? Joyful? Excited? Peaceful? Contented? Sunday afternoon lazy? Saturday morning casual?
I am my own widow bug and my own scientist under my ever-present microscope.