departed spouses

Easter Sunday 2022

April 18, 2022

   Carol noted one evening recently how around this time we tend to share stories of our departed spouses more frequently than other times of the year. April is the month that Mike died in an automobile accident, and also the month Carolyn was admitted to the hospital for treatment of leukemia from which she never emerged. It’s not that we believe we are communicating with them in any way. Carol does not believe in an afterlife, and while I do believe in one, I also believe how it operates is totally inscrutable to living human beings.

  Nevertheless there is a sense of presence that occurs to us this time of year that feels completely real and maybe even, well, uh, scrutable. It’s not communing in any sense. It’s more like a vivid memory, but one shorn of most of the grief. Making them real, if no longer alive. Kind of like talking behind someone’s back, but without the danger of being caught out.

The person I’m able to be with Carol is in part the person Carolyn had helped me to become. In this way, Carolyn lives on.

   Carol’s memory was of Mike’s last Easter. We have both shared the grieving awareness of Carolyn and Mike being cut short of life’s most meaningful experiences. In Carolyn’s case it was never being able to know what even a single day of retirement after a more than 40-year career would feel like. In Mike’s it was not seeing his grandchildren grow up. But on Mike’s last Easter Sunday with those grandchildren, it was the only Easter with the family Carol had to miss due to illness. Both of us now have only our imaginations to help fill in what otherwise would be blank pages in the lives of our departed spouses. I imagine what new interests Carolyn would have developed to give her retirement structure and meaning. And Carol can imagine what Mike’s last Easter Sunday was like with his grandchildren. It breathes a fresh life into their lives that for those moments of imagination, make them feel real again and growing.

   Back when my blog focused just on widowhood and how to live a life going forward, I received comments mostly from widows still struggling to carry on years if not decades after losing their spouses. I thought maybe it was because they loved their spouses more deeply than I loved Carolyn, but I knew that couldn’t be true. I adored her.

   I’ve learned to cherish the few years I had with Carolyn rather than mourn the ones I don’t and won’t have. The person I’m able to be with Carol is in part the person Carolyn had helped me to become. In this way, Carolyn lives on. For Carol, she is frequently surprised by how much of my routine behavior is exactly like Mike’s. It’s true that most of this behavior involves habits Carol wanted to but could never break in Mike. But in this way he lives on for her, and gives her something to continue to work on with me to help structure her retirement years. We’re a good match.

   It’s just a little more ironic this year that our remembrances of Carolyn and Mike occur on the very day we celebrate as a triumph over death. Makes you stop and think even if you’re not religious.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *