I wish I could walk into the bathroom and find the toilet seat up. I wish I could open the fridge and find something other than my current science projects on food decay. I wish to find a voice note on my phone sent by you. I wish I could exchange death for sickness because where there is life, there is hope. Hope for change. Hope for improvement. Hope for another intervention that will succeed. Your death is so permanent, my Beloved. So unchangeable. So irreversible.
The last time I can remember wearing my hope earrings and necklace was when we made the video recording for your memorial. When I presented your depression course called ‘Searching for sunshine’ two months after your death, I could only wear one earring on the first day. My other earlobe refused dressing up in hope. Looking back on it now, it seemed easy to dress up in hope when you were still alive. We were so used to hope deferred that made the heart sick and yet found ways to fix our eyes on God and continue with life. Is hope then only linked to life? I know that in death your hope deferred was restored. Where does your death leave me in terms of hope?
I take the dogs to the park in an effort to keep up a good routine. The friendly security guy at the property next door is not on duty today. The Chows seem like miniature lions wading through the long grass, looking for the prey of interesting smells. I put my small Zambia chair on the roundabout and sit down. Today I do not feel like kicking it into movement with my feet. Sadness clings to me like a second skin. I am immobilised by grief. Filled with a heaviness that tightens my chest. I can just sit. Just be. Not do.
Three weeks after your death the bereavement counsellor asked me a few questions about basic functioning:
I did not know that mourning is such hard work. In the afternoon I force myself to take a widow-nap. For an hour I lie down, even if I am not sleeping. I need to rest to deal with all the intense feelings. I have no energy to run away from them. Some nights I do not want to go to bed because when I wake up the next morning, I have to face the empty space on the bed next to me where your body used to be. I have downloaded Tetris on my phone again. This time I play it to force myself to get the message at the end of the game: “No more valid moves.” Nothing I do can bring you back. My only valid move is to feel all of my feelings, as uncomfortable and painful as they may be. In his book ‘Learning to love yourself’, Gay Hendricks gives me a new perspective on facing my feelings. “Think of a painful feeling as being like a bonfire in a field. At first it is hot, unapproachable. Later it may still smoulder. Even later, you can walk on the ground without pain, but you know there is an essence of the fire that still remains. Take your own time, but be sure to walk over the ground again. You must do so because whatever you run away from, runs you.”
Biscuit’s eczema has returned. The scab has come off and he has licked it into a raw sore again. I put ointment on three times a day and cover the sore with my hand. He licks my hand. After two days of sheltering the wound, it improves. Biscuit reminds me that I need wisdom in my wound care. A paragraph in Norman Wright’s book ‘Grieving the loss of a loved one’, instructs me. It says: “You must give yourself permission to grieve. You are going to grieve whether or not you give yourself permission to do so. The difference is that if you do not give yourself permission, you will be in a state of war within yourself during the grieving process. If you do give yourself permission, you can relax and not fight against yourself or the grief process. To fight against yourself adds tension and hurt to the grief. To fight against yourself takes away energy that is desperately needed for grief recovery. To fight against yourself can lead you to act well long before you are well. Acting well is not being well. By acting well, you will lengthen the grief process. You may even have a relapse later when acting well becomes too much to bear. You give yourself permission to grieve by recognising the need for grieving. Grieving is the natural way of working through the loss of a loved one. It is not weakness or absence of faith. It is as natural as crying when you hurt, sleeping when you are tired or sneezing when your nose itches. It is nature’s way of healing a broken heart. You have your own timetable.”
Githa sends me a scripture that answers my question on hope. Zechariah 9:12 “Return to the stronghold, you prisoners of hope. Even today I declare that I will restore double to you.” Lord, imprison me in Yourself. You are my hope in life and in my journey of facing André’s death. May my grief journey be an instrument in Your hand that changes my life and experience of You. Job 42:5 “My ears had heard of you before, but now my eyes have seen you.”