March 20, 2012
Steve has no clue what I want to write this morning, except, he feels nervous about what I said in my previous journal entry, that "grief is your own damn fault." I keep trying to tell him that my readers are not such fragile lilies. They can't be--they've survived one of the toughest things life could throw at them (meaning, those who are grieving the loss of a partner). And they knew what I was getting at.
Grief is an impasse--the irresistible force meets the immovable object. The overwhelming feeling in grief is, "It couldn't have happened, and yet it did happen. This is impossible, but every day I wake up and it is still there."
There is a way out of this impasse, and this is what I tried to show you last entry.
Theoretically, a person who has lost a physical spouse, should be able to feel the way Steve does, about me. Let us suspend disbelief for the time-being, and assume he is not out of his mind. His marbles are intact, all screws are tight, no gears are slipping, and his load of bricks is full.
Steve misses my physical presence. He remembers it--alright, Steve, now it's okay to tell this--he distinctly remembers me wearing his big shirt at bed-time, with just a little bit of fuzz occasionally showing at the bottom, and still hiding my somewhat petite breasts, with my dark hair let loose (which husbands didn't get to see so often back then). This was early in our marriage, while I was still a bit shy; but I knew it would drive him nuts (of course), and thankfully, it did! I was petite and petite was not "in." Steve hasn't studied this, he's just dutifully (and somewhat bemusedly) writing. I say "bemusedly" because he gets in big trouble for sharing such things, normally. But I'm trying to make a point. (Shock value, again, but this time I take the brunt of it.)
So, this image is strongly etched into his mind, and, naturally, he misses me that way. He also remembers sitting nearby while I was working in the kitchen. I was wearing a flower print house dress--we had dresses to wear in the house, then (and again, Steve has not studied this in the history). I would be barefoot, and if I reached up for something, an ankle or two might show. This, also, was early on in our marriage. He, Matthew (Steve when he was Matthew), would sit nearby casually reading his paper or something, and would glance up from time to time--especially when I reached for something on an upper shelf! He thought I didn't know, but come on, girls, we know these things. I would be sure he caught a glimpse of those ankles at least once or twice! It was one of our little love-games.
I suppose ankles are no big deal, now. More's the pity.*
So Steve misses my physical form--but he is not writhing in mental and emotional agony over it. He has my presence, my mind, my heart, and we interact. We can communicate fairly effectively, especially after some practice. Steve is rarely sure whether it's me or his imagination. Sometimes I come through especially clearly, and he knows, definitely. Sometimes he comes up with things I never said! Mostly, it's a bit of this and a bit of that. But overall, we communicate, we laugh, we joke, we do creative activities together, we share our feelings and concerns, and, in short, we have a relationship. His biggest worries are "is this all made up" (more a problem when we started than now, at the two-year mark), "did I make that up or did you really say that," and "I wish I could see you," or, "I wish you could touch me."
This is quite different from his main concerns when I died, which were more along the lines of "is she extinguished forever, or did she survive death?" Steve has the memory of staring at my tombstone, on which was inscribed, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord." He would mull over its meaning, chewing on it, agonizing over it, this way and that. Turning his mind into a pretzel: "How can she be blessed if she is dead? What difference does it make if she's wiped out of existence? What kind of reward is that, what kind of reassurance is that? Dead means dead--so what blessing is there in that? Or, what if she's not dead. Does being blessed mean she's not dead? If so, why do they call it 'dead'?" And on that like, far into the night.
Theoretically, you should be able to move from "Point A" to "Point B". Maybe not overnight. Maybe not in two months, or three months. But hopefully within a few months to a year. But people don't. Matthew remarried in a year--tricked, as Steve feels, by well-meaning friends and relatives, while he was still grieving me. As Matthew, he never stopped grieving me. He should never have remarried. But that's another story for another time.
Why can't you move from "Point A" to "Point B"? Why can't you have Steve's experience?
Well, first of all, you can, and some are. We know of one couple who is, because she wrote us about it. Someday, I hope either we, or someone else, will publish a compilation of such success stories. It's too early, yet--not enough couples have come forward. It's very risky for one's career, for one thing. This couple was willing to come forward, but I advised them, through Steve, to wait. Too many complications for her if she had done it, now. What we need is strength in numbers, and that will come, in time.
But back to "Point A" and "Point B". What's the difference, the key difference, between Steve's experience, and another widower's? Well, the obvious difference is that Steve has gone through 170 years of experiences, shed two or three bodies in the interim, and has been looking for me, unconsciously, all that time. He is, in short, thrilled to death (no pun intended) to have me in any condition he can get me! Whether I am physical or not is hardly the most important thing to him, now. Realizing, finally, why he's been unhappy all his life, remembering who it is he's been missing, and having her back again, are the only things that matter to him.
So the relative importance of my physical body has receded for Matthew/Steve, and the overwhelming importance of my mind, my being, has taken center-stage. When I had first died, he could not accept that my mind, my presence, was real. He had to see my body. When I appeared to him, he decided (and was convinced by those damned advisers) that he was going mad. Only touching my body physically would have satisfied him, and perhaps not even that, as well (think about Thomas not believing Jesus after the crucifixion).
Now, Steve is thrilled each time he feels my dynamic, living presence so intimately with him. And he believes it. I proved to him that I am real enough times, that these proofs have satisfied his logical mind. He knows, if he is to be intellectually honest, that those proofs stand. He doesn't need an unending series of proofs, in short, because logically, the ones he had a year ago are just as valid now as they were then. The aggressively doubting mind does not operate on logic. It is a beast that must be confronted on its own terms. It must be exposed for the irrational thing it is. It has been hiding behind the banner of "objectivity" far too long. It is no such thing.
So the difference between Matthew's state, not long after I died, and Steve's state, now, is that Steve has wrestled with this monster and prevailed. It is not that madness has won--quite the opposite. Madness was having clear proof of my having survived death, and dismissing it. Madness, in short, was masquerading as sanity.
Poor Matthew, the scripture had been mistranslated, and he is not the only one who has been hurt by such ignorant translations. It should read, "Blessed are they who have passed, who love the Lord."**
It's as simple as that. How we would wish to explain! But first someone has to be listening.
Love and best wishes to each,
*On March 29, 2013, I found the following humorous story in the Jan. 30, 1858 edition of the Portland Transcript, reprinted from "Punch," in which a woman explains why they wear "crinoline," i.e., hoop skirts: "'Hides clumsy feet?' How can you be so rude? Ladies do not always like to have their ancles stared at."--SS
**I am telling Steve just now, for the first time, that it was supposed to say that, but some ignoramus insisted on going by the scripture.