Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.
~Henry van Dyke
Four months, one quarter of a year… Harold has been gone since May 5. How is that possible? Sometimes I think I have grasped the enormity of that fact, but most days my life is still touched by an air of unreality, an unbelieving. Four months or forever? Some days, I just don’t know.
All the cliches are true. I turn around and expect him to be there. So many times during the day, I find that there are things I want to tell him. (Sometimes I do just that.) I wake up in the morning and am taken aback that he’s not there beside me. The phone rings and I expect his voice to greet me. I need something fixed or a stubborn lid opened–and I turn to call him for help. I knew I would miss him on the special occasions of our life and I knew I would miss his support and counsel when important decisions needed to be made. I didn’t realize it would be in the minutiae of everyday life that I would feel his loss most keenly and deeply. When will it sink in that I’m really alone here?
Speaking of cliches, I’ve heard a few. Most are well-meaning, some are even true, but none are especially comforting. “Time heals all wounds.” This may be so but it must be a very long time. “Grief looks back, you need to look ahead.” Perhaps, but no one can tell me how long I should grieve or when it will be a part of my past. For now it is part and parcel of my everyday, every moment existence. Sometimes, looking back is a comfort and good memories soothing, but the loss is a still fresh pain daily. “He’s in a better place.” My faith assures me this is true, I truly believe it, and yet it is scarce comfort when I really want him here with me. Grief can be pretty selfish and self-centered. “Everything happens for a reason.” Again, I know this to be undeniably true, but…not much has seemed very reasonable to me in the last 6 months. Not much has made sense. One day, perhaps, when I look back, I’ll see it.
There’s not a little irony in the fact that I’ve offered the same or similar words to friends with similar losses. Strange how reality and perception turn upside down when the loss is personal. The words of comfort and advice are not meant to hurt or offend or irritate. It’s just that no one has walked the same path as another. One of my dearest friends and biggest supporters right now has been a widow for over 4 years. But, as much as she does understand, she never presumes our circumstances are the same, for they are not. I am amazed to realize that while I tried to be a support and comfort to her when her husband died, I really had no clue. None of us ever does. This is a path we walk alone, with our own grief, and with our God.
Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful beyond words for every bit of support that I’ve gotten, and for all of the words of love and kindness. For regardless of what was said, I know the intent has been to love me through this difficult time and to support me whenever and however possible. Words cannot express my gratitude for all that has been offered and given over these last months. I could simply not not have survived without my support network. I don’t want anyone to think I’m complaining about anything that has been said. The problem lies in the topsy-turvy world I live in right now, in my inability to fully grasp all that has happened, in my grief-obscured mind that isn’t yet able to deal with this great loss. Words that once made sense, and might again, just cannot always sooth my fractured heart. But, trust me and believe this–the love comes through. It lifts me and sustains me.
Life goes on. Regardless of what I feel right now, life has not stopped because of my loss and grief. Time marches on. And, in brief moments, I am aware that time will somehow help.
…Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
~Psalm 30:5 NJKV
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
Since time is the one immaterial object which we cannot influence–neither speed up nor slow down, add to nor diminish–it is an imponderably valuable gift.
So, four or forever? This night, it is both.