Not the address – avenue, road, boulevard, circle, street, lane, drive.
Not the location – urban, rural, city, countryside; desert, agrarian, mountain, forest, water-front.
Not the style of dwelling – house, apartment, condo, villa, mansion; brick, stucco, wood-frame, steel and glass; bungalow, split-level, skyscraper, ranch.
What brings you life, shelters you, nurtures you?
Where is your heart?
For 41 years and 361 days, an integral part of that place, for me, was with Bill – my husband, soulmate, best friend, and spiritual anchor. He loved me unconditionally, offered me constant encouragement and support, made me laugh, prayed with and for me, and always pointed me to the Holy. When he took his last breath that all disappeared. For a long time, I honestly didn’t know if I could survive without him, or if I even wanted to.
Almost five years later, the pain is still raw. At times, really, really raw. And Memorial Day weekend is one of those times.
Memorial Day was a huge thing in my family of origin, not just for the women. After my mom died, my dad insisted we take him – and flowers – to all the cemeteries, and in later years when he wasn’t able to go, I did.
The observance of that tradition – and the memories it evokes – is so much a part of me it’s all I think about when the last weekend in May rolls around, including and especially the cemetery most recently added to the list, the one where – far too soon! – my husband’s grave marker sits.
That’s where my heart is this weekend.
Part of me cannot imagine where the last five years have gone and how they slipped by so quickly. But there is another part of me for whom it has been a long, arduous journey as I’ve bumped up against our culture’s understanding and ways of dealing with grief and loss in constant, and constantly painful ways. (Spoiler alert: we don’t).
The unspoken expectation is: “Get over it, find closure, move on. The sooner, the better.”
It sounds so deceptively simple: Get over it. Move on.
Why couldn’t I make it work?
It doesn’t work because grief and loss aren’t hurdles to get over or problems to be solved or things – like a broken window or malfunctioning washing machine – that have to be fixed. They are part of life.
Coming to that realization doesn’t magically take the pain away, (nothing does), but it has enabled me to give myself permission to be where I am, how I am; to feel what I feel; to sit with the hard questions without rushing to find answers; to live into my reality as I am able to, with honesty, authenticity and integrity.
I don’t have to put on a happy face when I am sad. It’s all right to cry – even in public. It’s possible – and I’m allowed to – be happy and experience joy, in the midst of grieving. If I need help, I can – and should – ask for it; I don’t need to pretend everything is “fine” when it is not.
And neither do you.
Where is your heart, Dear Reader?
Wherever you are, however you are, be present to what is there. And know that the Holy is there too.
“Where could I go from your Spirit?
Or how could I flee from your Presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there!
If I make my bed in darkness, You are there!
If I soar on the wings of the morning,
or dwell in the deepest part of the sea,
even there your hand will lead me,
and your Love will embrace me.”
Psalm 139:7-10, Psalms for Praying