Those and many other activities required some reordering of my own priorities. I had to give up my daily blog posts, after posting a personal note explaining why my followers had not heard from me for a while and probably would not for some time to come. I posted one Christmas poem, and that was it. I was determined, however, to continue my responsibilities as Minister of Worship at my congregation at Pennswood Village. Though I missed Margie’s companionship in my weekly commute to Newtown, Pennsylvania, having to preach every Sunday helped me to keep an outward focus, when I could easily have become too absorbed in my own grief.
Much of my time was spent catching up with financial matters that Margie had always attended to, until her declining health prevented it. I have always done our income tax returns, while she used to pay most of the bills. We were an efficient team, but our medical and other bills had piled up and it took some time to sort all that out. Our Federal and State income tax returns were a huge challenge this year, and very time consuming, but I was able to beat the deadline, thanks to TurboTax. Anyway, that’s why I haven’t been posting for several months.
All of that has to do with the first of the two worlds I’m living in, the “outer” world of my daily life. At the same time I have been living in another world, an internal world, a private world of constant sadness. It’s always there, like a heavy weight on my heart, even when I’m absorbed in the activities and obligations of the outer world. Ever since the devastating first couple of days following Margie’s death, I have been both a participant in and an observer of the experience of grief. It’s as if I’m standing outside myself, observing myself in the act of grieving.
I miss Margie terribly. I shed many tears, when I’m alone. Some people have said to me, “You’ll get over it in time.” That may have been their experience, but I can’t imagine that I’ll ever “get over it.” Other friends have told me they are still grieving the loss of their spouse years later. Margie and I never got over the death of our son Ricky at the age of five and a half. We learned to live with it, but we never got over it. And we had each other to share and understand the grief we both felt.
Margie and I never stopped missing her parents and her aunt Lelie, who were killed in an automobile accident. Their lives ended tragically and prematurely. The initial shock was much greater for us than the slower demise of both my parents. I still miss them, and my aunts and uncles, and my brother, and all my good friends who have died, but my grief for them is not debilitating. As the years go by, one’s grief may become dormant, but it’s still there, and it can be awakened suddenly, sometimes unexpectedly and sometimes predictably, by certain music, or a picture, or a remark, or a dream, or by what my son Andy calls an olfemory (his word for a certain aroma or odor or smell that triggers a memory, from olfactory + memory), or just by a thought from out of the blue.
When that happens, the effect is emotionally powerful. Tears flow very easily. When I’m alone, I don’t try to hold them back. When I’m in the company of others, however, I do my best to mask my emotions, but often my voice betrays my feelings. I find it hard to speak normally, when I’m grieving. That’s my inner world impacting my outer world. So I just wait until I can get control of myself. I can stem the flood tide in public, but I can’t always hide my feelings completely, when I’m inwardly grieving.
The observer in me is fascinated by the way my two worlds interact and what it’s like to live in those two worlds at the same time. I think I can honestly say that I’m learning to do so, and I suppose a grief therapist would say that is progress. If that’s what people mean by “getting over it,” I can accept that. But if they mean the absence of sadness, then I’m far from over it. I can’t imagine I’ll ever stop missing Margie.