Saturday is the two year anniversary of John’s death. The two year mark of chaos entering in and shattering the life I had, a life I loved, with an extraordinary man. And I find it strange that the first year the death anniversary was not this hard, this viscerally painful. The first year the days leading up to it were difficult and I was anxious about how the day would be, but as many other grievers have stated, the actual day was not as awful as I had feared. I’m hoping this year will be the same, as the days leading up to this anniversary have been harder, the loss felt more keenly.
Perhaps this is because after two years the absence of John has become the “norm” as has the hurt of missing him. Also, after two years there is no denial that life will never be what it once was or that in some way it can be returned to me as it was before, unbruised and un-battered by the waves of sorrow. At two years, life without John is no longer a strange world of transition but has become the daily expectation and perhaps that is why this anniversary is harder than the first. There is no denial of what happened, no denial that if life happens that death too will happen, no denial of the fragility of being human and alive.
My daughter Cecelia, asked me yesterday if I thought that the pain ever became less. “No” I responded. “I don’t think it ever lessens, I don’t think John’s death will ever be less hurtful or less hard than it is now, but it becomes different. The pain now, is deeper, quieter, folded into who I am, who she is. It doesn’t become less painful, it is simply different.”
Thinking on that this morning, I still believe that. I think the early on pain is like a fresh, bloody, gaping wound. The world can see it, we the bearer of the wound can literally see it. It’s raw and scary to us and to those around us. Later, the wound closes up and as time passes a scar forms and then fades and eventually simply is. It is a part of who we are and is also a reminder that there was once a “before” the wound life and we are now in the after of an awful happening.
Eventually, as time passes even we, even the bearer of the scar stare at it less, we acclimate to it’s existence and perhaps are sometimes even surprised at it when we glimpse it unexpectedly. But it never hurts less, it isn’t “gone”. It might have faded from the surface of our human shell but as time moves along it sinks deeper, changing us, moving us, becoming a literal permanent part of the core of who we are. And the hard truth is we must learn to walk in this life again, even with this wound, even with this pain. We must learn to walk again, perhaps always with a the reminder of a limp born both from the wound and the hard won mobility of surviving the “after” of it all.
I don’t think it will ever hurt less, I really don’t. I think that life and love and time will help to heal the surface wound but the deeper gnash that marked the soul, the core of each human, will always remain. It’s how we use the pain that matters now, are we open and vulnerable to life and love or do we become hardened by pain and fear and so retreat into ourselves for protection?
For me, I am trying hard to remain open and vulnerable to the wonders of all that is even during the really difficult times such as now, when the calendar challenges me to look at the distance between the initial impact of the storm that changed my life and person I am now in the world of “after” the death and loss of John. I look at the calendar and see days, hours and months that have passed and know that many of those were lived through in darkness under heavily clouded days with an even heavier clouded heart, each day slogged through yet again. But looking at the calendar this morning I could also see that if I try hard to remain vulnerable to beauty and the sun that promises to warm me if only I will open the curtains to let it in, that I too can learn to walk again, limp fully embraced in both times of the sun and the rain.