I continue to share excerpts of my spiritual journal written within the first month or so of my wife’s passing. I hope my continued sharing helps you in making sense of your own griefs or helps others in their journeys of grief. It is a messy winding journey full of certainty but, like all of life, open to hope.
One of the things that happened during the grief journey I am on is I began to notice ladies. It is likely that when I met interesting, attractive, or fascinating women during my years of marriage I did notice them. But I suppose there is a difference for me in noticing women and thinking “wow, they are neat people” while noticing nothing else. I was so happily married that, though I might have noticed women other than my wife, I really had no deeper desire to explore it.
I notice now certain women in my life whom I find myself thinking, “She’s a great sense of humor… Wow, she’s fascinating… God, she’s gorgeous…” and I catch myself. I think when this happened before Kat’s death I caught myself, remembered my lovely wonderful wife and, well, that’s all I needed. Any notice I just layed aside.
Now I catch myself not knowing what to do. A part of me wonders. “Isn’t this a possibility? I mean… could this be someone who would make me happy…?” And very quickly, just as soon, I feel sick to my stomach. I don’t feel guilty. I’m very aware that I am alone. But I realize, that’s not love. That’s interest, attraction, fascination.
Even in the midst of it I will feel my heart longing, like a magnet drawn to metal or perhaps a moth to a flame, longing that such noticing will mean something more.
I think that a part of what is happening is that I’m beginning to realize I am alone. I know there is no one to come home to. A part of me has been looking for Kat everywhere, with that empty place in my soul, that broken piece where she used to be connected to me. And I remember how close, how comforting, how exciting discovering her was. And a part of me wishes more than anything to discover someone, falling deep into them, in that warmth of romance.
But the sickness in my stomach the moment I feel these things is the warning that unless I am careful now it would not be love I find.
You know I sit with the dying. It is my job. I hear their stories, I experience the treasures of the lives they have lived. When I do this, I have found some wisdom about the next step in my journey. The dying and the dead will teach us if we but will listen to them.
What I hear are those who find true love, true soul mates, in their many partnerships are those who find their second partner does not replace their first but instead awakens a new part of themselves that they did not know before. No one can replace who came before. That person ever remains a part of their heart and their soul. No, instead, they continue to hold the person who came before in a treasured place in their heart, but they grow so there is room for a new soul in their soul, new heart in their heart. Each new love of those I’ve listened to who have buried a spouse and found love again – some many times – made their heart, their soul, grow.
I must be careful. What I feel in this real attraction to some of the women in my life may not be even the seed of love, but a desire for replacement, even though seeds of love may lay ahead for me. In listening to the dying I have heard this tale too. It is a path that leads to deeper despair. No one can replace anyone in our lives. To try and find another Kat would be to dishonor her memory and my own. I know that if I try that, I will find no one can hold a candle to her. She leaves enormous shoes to fill.
Before I can listen to these moments I feel a pull of attraction, I will need to no longer be looking to find Kat in others. For Kat is not here. She has gone. She may live on in the next world, and in better moments I believe that. But she is not waiting for me in another woman, no matter how fascinating or beautiful.
There will come a day I believe that I will feel the pull of attraction and know it is time to explore. I cannot predict if it will come soon or it will come late. I believe there will be someone for me under this sun, when my heart has begun to mend. But mend it must.
In these 12 years with Kat, 13 counting the time before we married, I gave my heart to another. It was immature, unlearned, full of youthful fire. But it was basically whole. My heart is not whole now as I write these words. I cannot hand another the tattered rags that are my soul, nor be ready to receive another’s golden gift into my own heart, not while my heart still throbs in agony for its loss.
In truth, I have to practice the wisdom of Solomon, when Solomon is attributed as saying “Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, not to awaken love until the time is right.” (Song of Solomon 8:4).
I must wait until my heart is ready.
Yet I have to admit the fact I am finding my eye turn to women other than my wife of 12 years is promising to me. I don’t believe I’m one called to singleness. I don’t think my late wife would want me hanging up hope of relationships. I think she would want me to live, live life to the fullest, as she did until the day she died.
The fact that my heart can be moved, even so prematurely, suggests to me that I will want love again. Hearing the dying as they tell their stories demonstrates to me that such a love is possible. My grief may never end, but my heart can even in the midst of grief’s unending cycle find wholeness again. A day will come that I have again a shining jewel ready to share with another heart; and I am ready to receive another’s golden soul into my own. This can happen.
I feel this waiting is not just for romance.
A good friend, upon my grieving over the fact I could never give my wife the dream of children she wanted, and right when I got to the point we could look at adoption, she passed, told me something I had not ever thought of: you know, Micah, you keep talking like you can’t have kids. You know that wasn’t just her dream. It was yours too. But you can have kids. You don’t need a wife for that. It’s the 21st century, for goodness’ sake. Single people adopt children all the time.
When I heard that, I didn’t like it. Because what I was grieving then was the lost dream of shared love, of family. Since then I’ve thought. And I know perhaps more than I would ever want a new romance, I want t be a father. I want to hold a child in my arms and know it’s my son or daughter. I want to share my love in a way that helps one of these dear little ones grow into all God has made them to be. Not only did I feel Kat’s dream was lost but my own.
My friends words made me realize I don’t have to have a partner or spouse to have kids. I might. But if I can’t or choose not to, well many a good parent had no spouse or partner. And they loved.
When this realization hit me a week or so ago, a part of me wanted to get on the phone. I wanted to call the adoption agency. I wanted to go become a dad. For I’ve had love. I’ve lived that dream.
Then it dawned on me – wait a second. The same thing is true about fatherhood as about romance. To be a parent is also to give my heart to another, and to take theirs into my care. It is a relationship of deep love and commitment of another type. And I must be slow to awaken love, even of the parental kind.
Just as before I can listen to these longings for someone to embrace again I must let my heart heal and become whole again, so also I must do the same before I can be a parent. In fact this may be more the case there than elsewhere. For a girlfiend, a partner, or a wife are grown. Their heart may become broken but it will not wound them forever. Not being fully ready to love a child could traumatize them for years to come. But I do believe when my heart has healed, whether I do it with a partner or spouse, or on my own, I have a lot to give. I believe I will be a great dad.
As I write, Advent has broken out. I write on the first Sunday of Advent. I have to admit when my preacher preached her sermon this Sunday, I couldn’t follow it. Today was a day in which the grief was like a fog and I felt a bit lost. But what I do recall was her discussion of waiting as a task.
Sometimes we are in a hurry to arrive. There is a part of my heart that cannot get through this pain of loss, of searching, of trying to rediscover who I am, fast enough. But there are lessons to be learned by waiting. Advent is a time of waiting, a waiting in which shapes you to become ready to become the bearer of the living Christ to the world. So I have to accept that this time of waiting until my heart becomes whole again. Having having heard the dying tell their stories of grief, loss, and recovery I know that it will seem like it will last forever. But it won’t. And I will wake on the other side of this a better man.
How have you faced such things in your own times of grief?
Remember to not rush past the waiting, but let it be a fruitful time to learn and grow into your truest and best self.
You progressive redneck preacher,