“No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…”
~ Terry Pratchett
What’s happening here? I asked him. He replied, “A key broke loose and I’m gluing it back in place.” Ha, well that’s certainly a creative way, I retorted speculating on the curiously odd way he was going about it. The late model laptop was laying on the living room floor next to his chair with a large brass dolphin figurine resting across the keyboard, it’s nose strategically placed on a function key was the silliest looking thing I’d seen in a while — so much so I had to take a picture. This will come in handy one day I told him.
It was a gift, that blue model sail boat. A gift from me to Boomer, in 1999, the second summer I spent with him in Saugatuck, Michigan. I’d spotted it in a tourist gift shop. He loved sailing and his favorite color was blue. The purchase was a no-brainer for me and probably the easiest gift I’d given him in all our years together. He loved it. The boat was one of his favorite things and always made its home in a prominent place of stately presence in the three residences that followed. It was all the sentimental history surrounding the boat why I kept it.
I never imagined a time when it wouldn’t be in my home or moreover, the home I shared with Boomer. Yet there I was, taking pictures of it and placing it on Craigs List to sell — three years after he died — as I began clearing out and packing up the house, preparing to move. It was time. He was the sailor, not me. I’d been selectively assessing what I’d take with me into a new home. The new home without him. What items were special to me, my tastes or my likes that also meshed with fond, loving memories of Boomer or our history together. The blue sail boat was no longer such an item.
A woman in a neighboring town called late-morning that Wednesday with interest in the boat for the nautical-themed redecorating of her guest room. She could be there in 30-minutes. I walked into my own guest room to retrieve the boat from the top shelf of an increasingly empty bookcase. I stood there looking at it, remembering its life with us, its life with Boomer and said a private goodbye when I spotted a small piece of dust in a corner of the bow. As I blew on it, something moved and I leaped out of my skin in startlement. What on earth is that? A peculiar, misplaced, square piece of black plastic. I picked it up, turned it over for examination… BAM! I am stunned by what I am holding… the function key.
That boat had been moved, adjusted, repositioned and dusted countless times in the last three years. The laptop had been discarded and recycled over two years ago. A deluge of questions dominated my bewilderment: What the? How the? Where the? Then the grief hit; a trouncing blast of paralyzing mourning shock and awe of Boomer’s passing, my love, my sorrow and loss, and a spiritual affirmation of his presence right there with me in the moment; all so intense I could barely breathe or stand, and had instantly usurped the surprising discovery of the laptop key so much that I was now terrified over my inability to contain my emotions — and the woman was arriving in 15 minutes to buy the boat. Pull it together, pull it together. I chant to myself over and over, when I recall Amber’s counseling words: It’s a three to five year process. The full emotional healing process of bereavement, mourning, and loss can take three to five years. Welcome to year three, SMO; you’ve arrived.
I desperately wanted to rebuff Amber’s trained, educated insights each time I heard them during the 22-months of my grief recovery therapy with her. Three to five. Sounds more like a distorted criminal judicial sentencing. I thought she was crazy. Yeah, crazy like a fox. And so is grief. As the time passes and you move through life, making the adjustments, while the subtle natural emotional healing of time passages occur, surprises will beset you. Bet on it, and yet you can’t. That’s the irony of grief and also what’s so damn frustrating. You are blind-sided — every time.
The sound of a car door coming from the driveway, jolted me back into an assemblance of coherent composure. We did the transaction — taking all of five-minutes — as the blue sail boat was placed in the trunk onward to its new home, new owners, new memory making excursions. I walked back into the house, picking up where I left off, and uncontrollably dropped to the ground, landing in the very spot where the laptop and dolphin gluing project had been staged. For a few moments, I felt like he had just died — again. I surrendered to the second microburst of tears, pain and anguish and let them run their course as I sat there on the living room floor. A phone call to a nearby friend, spawned a in-person visit and talking through the experience with her, I regained my strength and felt better within a few hours. This is grief…the later years.
Grief need not be a life sentence. But the healing unequivocally does take time. Expect the unexpected. Take comfort in knowing that that is what is guaranteed — the absolute unexpectedness of emotional triggers. Yes, I know…it’s always easier said than done. Do it anyway, for your love of you, your loved one and your healing. The moments may hit hard, but they don’t last quite as long, so long as you give yourself permission to unfold with it when they do.
I can’t help but wonder, what will be next?
Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.
~ Haruki Murakami