When we fell in love it was a long and lovely fall tumbling heart first into a trust so deep and wide neither of us recognized it at first.
Here where the soul is bare and unashamed and caught off guard by the beauty of another we discovered home for the first time in our lives.
It is not to be taken for granted – this serendipity of finding what we knew our souls needed but had never been able to find – a shelter from the storm, a refuge amid life’s troubles, a sanctuary of healing grace.
Your dying shook the foundations of this home we fashioned out of love and sweat and laughter and tears.
Now many questions travel with me in this liminal territory I’ve entered – where am I to turn for shelter, how will I recover a sense of home, how do I cultivate a circle of trust, how does one pray with a heart bereft, how do I travel this long, lonely road?
Travel with me, sweetheart. Please, I pray, travel with me, as I wait for answers and go in search of them.
Travel with me, sweetheart, and in the traveling hold these questions with me until a new dawn arrives.
Travel with me and be home for me, and in the sweet mystery of love be home with me.
Let breezes sweetly whisper through the trees at midday
Let clouds drift lazily across a buoyant spring sky
Let the sun’s brilliance gild rugged hillsides nearby
And let it all remind me that this day is holy
Let friends call and listen tenderly to my pain
Let strangers offer a kind word or gesture
Let hours pass and leave no trace of regret
Let this day unfold with a gentleness born of grace
And let it all remind me that this day is holy
There is no denying this world looks different to me now my future blurred by uncertainty love’s healing work barely begun and the cruel finality of death no longer merely an idea
But let the birds sing in the morning let friends be present by my side let moments of contentment quietly come let memories wash over me like a balm let joy one day follow these days of mourning let healing imperceptibly take root and grow
And let it all remind me if I have the courage to see it that this day indeed is holy
I didn’t truly understand before how deep loss can pull you under how traumatic death can feel how it ends a world
I knew that death was profoundly painful for the ones left behind I knew it was life-altering I knew it was accompanied by many tears and heart-stopping screams in the night and even cursing of the darkness but I didn’t really understand
I knew that life is fragile that our days are not guaranteed that while we bear the divine image we live in mortal bodies and that it can all end in an instant
I knew that I wanted to show others empathy that I wanted to accompany them in their pain and that because of my calling I was a visible reminder of the holy whenever I visited the dying or grieving but I didn’t really understand
A world ended for me this day
January 27, 2021
While the world around me carried on as though nothing had happened my world collapsed it burned itself out it shut itself down it ended
My world was you and me in all the sacred messiness of our relationship in all the hopefulness for life yet to be lived in all the simple joys of faithful companionship in all the blessings of traveling this road together
Then in a moment it was gone
And I finally began to understand
Had I tried to imagine the searing pain the throbbing heartache the sickening permanency that accompanies such a loss I doubt I could have
Empathy only reaches so far
So here I am wounded disoriented vulnerable frightened alone
A world ended for me this day It was the world with you, my beloved, in it
Let us be in agreement that death is a thief that robs us of what we most cherish.
It may be the natural passage from this human life, it may be what is expected out of this crash course we call living, it may be the final remedy for being chronically mortal, but it robs us, nonetheless.
Let us be in agreement that death does not treat us kindly.
It creates a gaping hole in our lives that cannot be filled, it turns us inside out and upside down in our grief, it brings us to our knees where we can only beg for mercy, and it stings with deadly force.
Let us be in agreement that death takes no prisoners.
It causes us to question the worth of our own lives, it guilts us into wondering why we live when our loved one does not, it menaces us with our own imminent demise, and it cares not at all about trampling on our will to live.
Yet let us also be in agreement that death can never have the last word.
It cannot sever love’s bonds forged through unbroken daily loyalties, it cannot break apart the commitments we have made to one another, it cannot steal our memories of our beloved’s beautiful being, it cannot annul our deep affections for the one we have loved and lost, it cannot silence the resilient song of love in our hearts, it cannot prevent us from choosing to love still.
Even though it hurts beyond imagining, death does not have the final word – love is stronger than death!
Tomorrow will be one month since Dal died. In all of our nineteen years together we were never apart for more than two weeks. This is our longest separation and it’s only going to grow longer. I cannot make sense of it. I appear to be alive – I’m breathing by some miracle, I’m seeing friends and talking to people, I’m walking the dog, I’m eating occasionally, although I’ve lost twenty pounds – yet I don’t feel very alive. Contrary to the Bible, death does in fact sting! Not only does it sting, but it renders the one left behind feeling mortally wounded.
Dal and I talked about the end of life sometimes, and we always agreed that we needed to go out together because neither of us could imagine life without the other. We understood the foolishness of this thinking, of course; nonetheless, it was our way of naming how deeply connected we felt to one another, as though we were one flesh. Indeed, we were, and that flesh has been torn asunder.
The reality is, as I sit here in this home we created together, as I contemplate this life we built together, as I recall the future we dreamt of together, it all keeps coming back to this – I don’t know how to live in this world without her, not really. I can’t see the way forward. I can’t imagine ever feeling whole again. Often, I’m not even sure I have the desire to live. What’s the point? This is not me being suicidal. It’s me plumbing the depths of my grief where my desire to live lies beaten and bloodied, struggling to get back up.
There is no adequate consolation right now There is no this is going to get better There is no lessening of the sorrow I cannot see the path forward Only darkness, nothingness I see no future No home for me Not without my beloved Though I am told there is one
I am also told she lives now in my heart Or that she lives on in the memories we made Or that she will always be with me in spirit None of which is enough right now I want her Her body, her mind, her sprightly spirit Only her presence soothes me Only she gives a day meaning beyond itself
Being a partner with her in life meant everything She was my safe harbor in the storm She knew me better than anyone ever has She loved me fiercely in spite of my shortcomings She was protective of me and of our love She spoke so endearingly to me and about me In the absence of these, who am I
Most of all she made my heart sing Especially watching her love this life A life we were creating together And seeing her revel in genuine friendships And laughing with such ease And appreciating the small gifts hidden within each day And hearing her tender words to me And tasting her sweet lips And feeling her body next to mine There is no consolation for losing these things There is no adequate measure to the loss I feel
In the meantime, I will get up in the mornings as best I can I will look for life wherever I can find it If only for you, sweetheart I will remember our devotion to one another I will not lose sight of how deeply you loved me I will grieve, and then grieve some more It is the only thing to do It is the only thing You, Dally, make my heart sing Though for now the song is awash in tears
Sweetheart, I know I told you as you were dying that everything would be okay … that I would be okay … but it was a lie. I don’t like lying to you and I didn’t intend to do so; I was just trying to convince myself, and I was telling you what I thought you needed to hear so that you could let go and be released from a body that was failing you. But now I am utterly heartbroken. I feel completely lost without you. I want so badly to hear your voice again. I want to kiss your lips. I want to hold you and be held by you.
What touched my life so thoroughly during our love affair and marriage is how you would look at me with such affection in your eyes it melted my heart. You brought me to tears so many times just by being honest with me about how you felt. We told each other our deepest truths. We relied on one another to always care most about the other.
I can’t believe how lucky I was to have you in my life for nineteen years. If I had known sooner that our time together was nearing the end, I would have stopped working earlier and devoted all my time to you … to us! I would have reveled all the more in your smile and laugh. I would have asked you to tell me more about the greatest joys of your life, all the way back. I would have wanted to watch your New Zealand slides with you, and have you regale me about that favorite adventure of yours, years before we met.
I would also have wanted to hear more about the places of pain and disappointment in your life, many of which I know about and others I imagine were left unsaid.
This grief hurts beyond imagining. I feel like I’m dying inside. I struggle just to do the simplest things and get through each day.
I wish there was a way to communicate with you, my beloved. I write these thoughts I’ve been thinking and wish I could get this message to you. You were the very one I needed in my life. You cheered my successes, savored our relationship, and gave me every bit of yourself to love and enjoy. You were my anchor, my safe haven, my source of lightheartedness and joy.
I’m trying to figure out how to live without you near to me, your physical presence that is. I have never been through more painful days than these. A heavy sadness follows me everywhere, even to sleep. Nothing in my life experience compares to this aching I feel in body, mind and spirit.
Dallis, my beautiful one, it is my deepest hope that you are where there is no more pain and no more crying, and where you know deep and abiding peace. I also hope to see you often in my dreams.
The Gospel of Luke tells us that after the crucifixion of Jesus a good and righteous man named Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate to ask for Jesus’ body. Joseph then took the body of Jesus down from the cross, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee and had watched the crucifixion from a distance, followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how Jesus’ body was laid. However, because the sabbath was beginning, they returned to where they were staying and prepared spices and ointments for later.
Then the text reads, “On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56b).
I find myself wondering what that sabbath felt like to those who loved Jesus and had witnessed his cruel death.
What are the emotions you and I feel as we hear the story of Christ’s Passion told again during this Holy Week?
What do we do with ourselves following Jesus’ death?
Where do we find “rest” on the sabbath?
Here is a poem I wrote touching on these questions.
On the sabbath they rested
The room where lost dreamers came
in search of repair and a promised peace
looked like any other ancient room,
windows open and chanting to the sky,
walls thick with the prejudice of time,
echoing the desolation of unwelcome grief.
An ageless question hung in the air –
What awaits us between hopefulness and uncertainty?
We cannot know.
So for now we lie down among broken bodies,
we take our rest beside other ragged souls
who rummage around for redemption,
who long for peace in a world at war with itself.
Words (c) 2012 Mark Lloyd Richardson Photo (c) 2012 Dallis Day Richardson