It seems melodramatic to say that I've survived one week without the love of my life--especially when other wives send their husbands to war with no promise of a return or even a phone call for months or years on end. Indeed, if at any point during Jeff's illness God had said to me, "Kelly, I will cure him. He will live forever in complete comfort and happiness, but in return, you have to promise to never see him or hear from him again" I would have quickly and without hesitation agreed to the bargain. The fact that Jeff is dead really doesn't change the terms all that much--I merely need to uphold my end of the deal. So, now I must wait for "forever" to come so that I can see him again.
The trouble is that forever can be a very long time. I used to never feel like I had enough time to do anything--I rushed from task to task and place to place under the constant pressure of too little time. Now, all I have is time. Now, there is nothing BUT time. For Jeff, "forever" was only 36 years, 4 months and 4 days. I think of all the times I prayed for a long healthy life and now I think, "be careful what you wish for--you just might get it." And of course, I want to live a long and healthy life--especially for my children--but I long to see Jeff's blue eyes again and to hear his voice and I worry that my memories of these things will either distort or diminish over time and that, eventually, I will only remember the Jeff that I created and not the one that was.
I know I will never forget Jeff. The kids will never forget him. And it's clear from the amazing turn-out at his visitation and funeral that others will remember him fondly and often. I know it sounds crazy, (I'm convinced that grief breeds insanity), but I would love a little reciprocation--just a little sign from Jeff that he remembers me too. I thought that death would bring more mystery and emotion. I thought that I would have a dream or hear a song or see a cardinal in the yard (Jeff loved watching them from our back porch) or some other glimmer of other-worldly communication unmistakeably intended for me. Instead, I am astounded by the nothingness of death. There are no signs. No sense of his presence. No shadows or flickers in the corner of my eye. There is, quite simply, nothing.
Even stranger, is that this does not upset me. Today, no one has cancer. Today, I am no one's wife. Today we are a party of five instead of a family of six. I have pondered these facts with an uncharacteristic ambivalence. I love Jeff and always will, but he is dead and as much as it pains me to say it, I will be fine without him. I have to be. And my kids have to be. So we are going back to school and back to work and will continue to live as the living do. Furthermore, I believe that if Heaven is all that we are told it is and someone in Heaven can only experience blissful moments, then the more we cry and lament and beat our chests in grief, the more we separate ourselves from Jeff because he cannot share in our agony. However, by living joyfully and by laughing and smiling we draw him nearer to us. So, I am choosing to grieve happily and to mourn consciously in joy and with the expectation that it is helpful to Jeff and, therefore, to all of us.
In the meantime, I am tethered to this world and the human emotions within it, so I still cry and feel sorry that Jeff had to suffer and die so soon and I make room for him and his memory in our "new" life without him. I have visited his grave twice each day since he was buried. He does not yet have a headstone (they take two or three months to deliver) and in the meantime, his grave is unmarked, so I bought a "shepherd's hook" (for hanging baskets in a garden) and placed it at the corner of his grave with a special wind chime hanging on it. Jeff loved wind chimes (which is not something he widely publicized), and would always shop for one as a souvenir when we went on vacation. Unfortunately, he never found one that had a sound/tone that he liked. So, I don't know if he'll like the sound of the one I gave him, but it is beautiful to look at--very eye-catching--and will at least make enough noise to herald the fact that he is buried beneath it.
Well, this is a long and rambling post, but now that I have no one to talk to at night, you will likely see more where this came from. Sad, but true.
Until next time, thanks for continuing to support us and pray for all of us. I am slowly making headway opening all the cards and memorials and have been overwhelmed by people's generosity and kindness. Our house is filled to bursting with flowers and food and it is such a comfort--not to mention a flattering reminder of what a wonderful father I chose for my children and that you all chose as your friend. May God Bless him and Keep him.