I think that when someone you love dies, you break a little. Everyone is different, so is how much you break. Regardless of how long or well or deeply you loved, pieces inside you fall away and leave jagged emotionally exposed edges. It’s those edges that catch on things when you least expect it, things that on a normal day are insignificant, done reflexively. But when you are broken you come to understand how fragile the mind is. Derailed by grief, the mental clutter accumulates until you are unable to determine what’s normal and what’s not, what’s right and what’s wrong, what matters and what doesn’t, what you can do and what you can’t do. Then, with a mind weighed heavy by sorrow and fear, comes the confusion that forces a withdrawal from a reality that is too devastating to process.
My father told me once that things weren’t always black and white – he worried that I was too pragmatic in my approach to life. I have always valued logic and common sense, they are my touchstones in decision-making. From a young age I showed a propensity for this temperament – in school I loved mathematics, generally no grey areas there, again: either right or wrong. Then, in life, I found a surprising match in my husband, Kevin, my extreme opposite. He had no patience for math – there were machines to calculate the stuff that mattered. Who cared if it was right or wrong – it was how it felt that should be the deciding factor. Kevin was an emotional decision-maker and logic and common sense were not his forte. In life in general, he was resilient, accepting change, whether it defied logic or not. Where I would still be trying to figure out what just happened, he would be on to the next phase of, what do we do now? This approach saw him through life until he died.
Last night, I got snagged on one of the ‘jagged edges’ when I started to clear out the queued recordings on the PVR of all things. Some of the programs recorded pre-dated Kevin’s death; television programs he captured because he loved them so much. Gardens in Europe, art shows on grand masters; he’d watch them over and over and find something new each time. The date stamps on some of them were from when Kevin was newly diagnosed, when he had hope and determination but at the same time a calm resignation about his future. I couldn’t erase those programs, rather I felt the need to keep them, knowing full well it is unlikely I will ever watch them again. There is no logic in this decision, this is the result of pure emotional need, the desire to keep this odd tie to a past that exists in my memory and that I feel compelled to maintain on the PVR. What craziness is this?
Throughout his illness Kevin would tell me repeatedly how incredibly strong I was, and how thankful he was for it. Truthfully, it wasn’t strength on my part at all, I simply couldn’t let him down when he needed me most. I couldn’t be weak when he was so strong. I couldn’t let him see how scared I was since it wouldn’t help him or me. I loved him completely and would do whatever it took. Then, in what seemed like the blink of an eye, he was gone. Since then, in my day-to-day living, I find over and over again I get caught by a jagged edge. I realize that I am broken and that, when it comes to accepting his death, for the most part my logic has fled me. This is where I wish I had Kevin’s resilience. Instead, for me, the clock keeps ticking, the pages on the calendar turn, and each day brings its own little agony.
Sadly, in these things that I feel, I’m not alone and I’m not unique.