autumn days

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Carrying our Past into our Present

The winter holidays are a special challenge for those who have lost someone dear.  My partner died seven weeks ago, allowing me to deeply understand the fine balance of past and present and open wounds many deal with each year.  Thanksgiving presented an obvious absence for our family.  In trying to come to terms with my partner's death and keep his memory with us, his photograph and possessions are prominent in our home.  At home I am reminded of him when I spend time in our prayer room, look outside at snow-topped roofs, pay bills bearing his name, and upon so many other reminders.  We want to hold onto him, his sounds and smells and voice and touch, for as long as we can.  This is a way of tending to a constantly open wound as we move forward into new challenges and adventures.

We have gone on vacation to a new place for the end of December.  We packed no photographs.  We remember and talk about our children's "Papa" often, sharing with each other what he would have said or done or packed that we've forgotten or what he would have eaten for breakfast every morning or that he would have been the one teaching our children to swim. 

Last night my partner's cousins began to text about how they were honoring our beloved on this seventh week of his death.  There was a picture shared of his photograph and the sacred meal placed before it.  My sister-in-law set up this space to honor her brother and told us of dreams she has had of him.  I have dreams that amplify his absence, showing me others cannot take his place in our family, acknowledging our greatest loss.  Even in dreams I cannot see him yet.  I hope to.

In our winter adventures away from home, I focus less often upon my beloved partner.  Seeing his face through his sister's text pulled me back into the devastating grief, opening the wound that had closed a little by staying focused on the present moments.  I understand why some people remove their lost loved one's photographs from their lives.  We can hide our pain from ourselves in some way by hiding evidence of the life we've all lost.  After reading the texts, I looked around at our cousins and their loving Taiwanese grandparents, the lively conversations in Mandarin, a home full of laughing climbing children, the evening my partner would have loved to share with us.  I shared my sister-in-law's words and photographs with those at dinner.  We talked about our grief, how nobody could negotiate in business on the level of my partner, the words he would have said, how he would have prepared for this trip, how he helped many people visit this vacation destination yet never came here himself.

We will again return home to bills and photographs and the holes left behind by death.  We will continue to deeply grieve our loss.  For now, in this moment, I again return to my gratitude.  I am so thankful for this life I got to create with my partner, how I get to still be alive and joyful with our children, how I rise to the occasion of single parenting with patience and grace, how I get to type here in a room full of slumbering children, how I get to rise alone and be quiet for a few minutes today, how we get to be someplace new with people we love, how my children and I have many adventures awaiting us in this day, that we get to create new memories together by living in the moment.  What blessed lives we lead.  I am so grateful for our gathering together, our togethering.

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