It’s been ten weeks since Ed passed, leaving me with a heavy heart, six devastated adult kids, fourteen grands who miss their papaw, a lonely dog, a farm to manage, a consulting business to run, a house that’s too big, our two elderly mothers with health issues, and a job that needs a lot of my time and attention. Where do I begin?
For two weeks, I functioned on autopilot. Doing what needed to be done but not fully aware of my feelings as I did tasks. I went to work every day and tried to dig out from under the pile of work that had accumulated during the three months that I was caregiving Ed. I looked for him in every room and talked incessantly about him and our life together to anyone who would listen . Privately, I mourned the loss of my life as I knew it.
The next two weeks I cried every day as I drove to work. That was my private time to mourn the loss of the familiar morning routine where we read Scripture and planned our evening meal and drank our coffee and hugged goodbye. I went to grief counseling and joined a Grief Share group at church.
The next two weeks I started cleaning out the garage and the barn and packed up Ed’s clothes and mailed them to a family member in need. It gave me comfort knowing they would be used and appreciated, so much more comforting than dropping a black plastic bag into a receptacle at the grocery store parking lot. I reminded myself with each sweater I hugged to my chest that keeping his clothes would not bring him back. I designed his headstone and thought about leaving our farm for a place that was smaller and more manageable and closer to my family. I sent up his scholarship fund. I kept on sorting. I was busy, busy, busy.
After six weeks reality set in and all the “busy-ness” could not fill the empty days and nights. I wandered the house and wallowed in my grief. Boxes of photos and letters and cards brought back so many memories. With each memory, I sank deeper into a feeling of loneliness and sadness. I sat at his desk, I drove his truck, I read his personal papers and hugged his dog, the two of us unsure how to relate to each other without Ed as a buffer.
During this time, I could not envision my future. I could not envision a “purpose” in life or a reason to go on. Why bother to eat and work and sleep and buy groceries? Why? Just to keep on living a life alone and without meaning? What good was living if life held no joy? I missed my joy. I wanted it back and I wanted this sadness to be lifted from my heart.
This pain went on for the next four weeks. It was hell.
Last Sunday, I made a decision. I made a conscious decision that every day, no matter how difficult or lonely, I would live my life with a goal of finding my joy again. I dried my tears and sat down to create a list of things that brought me joy before Ed died. I asked myself why wouldn't those things bring me joy now that I was alone.
While many of the things on my list were things we enjoyed together and shared, some were some things I had always wanted to do but had made excuses to put off trying (Yoga, painting). There were things I loved to do but never had the time or energy to do after work and our couples activities. (Photography, Creative writing). There were other things that I enjoyed but Ed did not particularly care for (boating). I had always put off these activities in favor of doing things we enjoyed together.
In my grief, I convinced myself that we had done EVERYTHING together and that we were inseparable. The truth is we did 95% of everything together and loved every minute of it but we still were two individuals with interests and dreams of our own.
Last Sunday, I decided to take the talents I had been given and the blessings I had received and use them to live life fully, again, with a goal of finding joy. I decided that no one but me could honor Ed’s memory in the exact same way I could and, if I was wallowing around in despair, I was missing opportunities to honor his memory.
I thought hard about the unfairness of wishing him back from the paradise he is experiencing in heaven. If given the choice between heaven and earthly existence, an existence that for him included pain and suffering, could I truly ask him to come back? I could not. Therefore I decided to go on with life.
Life will be what I make of it. The only thing standing between me and a joyful life is the mistaken idea that I can only experience joy with Ed here to share it. The only thing standing between me and joy is myself. My Lord and Savior will provide me with a joy-filled life if I am willing to let Him.
I am sure there will be days and weeks and months of grief that will engulf me but I will not allow it to consume me. I just have to get my joy back or I will simply die every day for however long the Lord gives me and that is not what Ed would want for me.