I eagerly read the weekly postings of my fellow authors on this site. In the past week, for example, one writer bid a hopeful adieu to her readers, announcing that she is ready to resume living forward; meanwhile, another writer declared he is going to bid adieu to feelings of personal guilt associated with the death of a loved one.
The question of being ready, willing, or able to move forward after suffering the devastating loss of a loved one is universal, I suspect. It is an important issue that I have visited, and continue to revisit from time to time, in my own postings. My current approach to life can be summed up in a single line from the song Light My Fire by the Doors, one of my favorite rock bands: I have “no time to wallow in the mire.”
Indeed, for me, moving forward is not merely a laudable goal, but an age-related imperative. I will be turning seventy-one in a few months. Although I like to think that I am still strong and vigorous, nowadays I am occasionally rudely reminded that I have but a finite and limited useful shelf life.
For example, throughout my life I have been a pretty good athlete, who has enjoyed strong competition. In fact, I continue to play competitive racquetball twice per week, which is about as often as my two aging, post-surgical knees will permit these days. But after winning all three games of “cut-throat” during a recent match this past Thursday, earlier this week I stumbled and bumbled for nearly two hours, felt stiff, off-balance, and plodding — every inch the septuagenarian that the calendar says I am become.
Still, I plan to try once again later today. No time to wallow, indeed.
This same philosophy applies equally to my decision last year to enter the online dating universe. It is not coincidental, I think, that I started to explore the dating scene not so very long following Lee’s death. I would note parenthetically that our recently departed writer had announced that, after five years, she once again is sharing her life with her significant other. I sincerely hope they live happily ever after. My own waiting time has been far shorter in duration.
I also have had the good fortune to fall in with a lovely woman whom I now have been seeing for more than a year. Though Robyn and I still maintain our separate abodes there are nonetheless some positive parallels between my own circumstances and those of our departed contributing writer and, for that matter, between me and every other widower or widow who successfully steps into a new relationship. I have come to it quicker perhaps because, I suspect, my window of opportunity is far smaller than that of someone who is probably 20 or 30 years my junior.
Lee loved me with all her heart. I am certain that her fondest wish would be for me to find happiness once again in my life. Even if this were to include a new paring, so be it.
As for feeling guilty, well, I have been fortunate that I do not feel any such guilt when it comes to Lee’s death. Pancreatic cancer killed my wife. I had nothing to do with creating this circumstance. Of course, as I sit down to write this post, I still feel deep sorrow that Lee fell victim to and died from this most horrible and deadly disease.
I loved Lee with all my heart. I greatly miss her. I know that I will always miss her.
However, I cannot say honestly that I never said or did things while we were together that left me feeling guilty. There are numerous such things that I either regretted saying or regretted doing, but nothing so serious that it endures for me beyond Lee’s life. If I were to tell you that I was with Lee every step of her journey, or that I tried my utmost to show her my love, to give her succor, comfort, and support, no one familiar with how things went down could, or would, dispute me. It truly was my great privilege that she allowed me to care for her.
After Lee died, I recall being pounded frequently with such profound waves of grief that I imagined for a time, wrongly as it turned out, that my grief was sui generis. The fact is, grieving for someone you love is a highly personal endeavor but hardly a unique one. Indeed, as the weeks passed into months, it became ever more obvious to me that it would be irrational to think otherwise. My recognition that grief must be a shared experience led to my initial examination of literature and scientific writings regarding this subject matter. Eventually, my searches led me to this website.
Here, I have discovered, through reading my fellow contributors’ thought provoking, insightful and highly personal writings, entirely new ways to think about the issues that any of us might encounter as a widower or a widow. Most importantly, however, these writings help serve to build the sense of community that we have been thrown into simply by dint of our unique and personal circumstances in dealing with the death of a loved one. If every journey through grief is a never-ending journey, then at the very least it would appear that there are cognizable and significant milestones one can strive to achieve. This is, I think, the real point of these stories.