Granted, I've only experienced a long fatal illness with my dogs (who are my kids), because my sweetie died suddenly, but even that experience taught me that the time you spend waiting when there is no time left is miserable, a special kind of hopeless. When my A died, I imagined I wished I'd had more time, time to say things that needed to be said, time to say goodbye, time to say "I love you" a hundred more times before the last time in his presence. And maybe, in fact, I would prefer that. Maybe there is some peace to be found within the dread. I don't know. I pray I never have to find out.
In some ways, I know what he's going to go through. In other ways, I know I don't have the first clue. All I know is that another family is hurting, and is going to be for a long time, and there's nothing to be done for it. Mostly, my heart breaks for them, and this empathy probably couldn't have come at a worse time; then again, it probably couldn't have come at a better one, either.
It's that time of year again. Basically, when I flipped the calendar to June, I started to feel the dread, and more and more, I curse clocks and calendars. If there were no calendars, no named and numbered days to tick off, I would no doubt recognize that another year was about to pass, but there wouldn't be this relentless feeling of movement toward a specific day, the build-up to which is an emotional burden as I'm constantly taking my temperature. How am I feeling? Am I sinking? Am I not, and if not, is it going to hit me further down the line? When? How? And what does it mean if it never does?
Without this "anniversary" date, I would remember that he died in high summer, and there wouldn't be this funnel of time sucking me down to a specific point where despite having no conscious plan to do so, I seem to have expectations about my feelings. Without that date, without labeled time in sequence, I would merely recognize that the day formerly known as July 15th is probably going to be no different than the ones before and after it in terms of how I'm feeling about A, and his absence. I seem to have settled in to a manageable missing him; it's pretty much the same day to day. Sometimes it brings a tear to my eye; mostly it doesn't. I'm done wishing. I'm done begging. I'm done blaming, myself and him. I've given up all hope for a different past. I just miss him. Quietly; consistently; every day.
As it is, the thing that bothers me most is that nearly 5 years have passed. 5 years has always seemed like such a long time to me; I've seen my life change again and again in the span of 6 months; 5 years is an age in one person's lifetime. For almost 5 years, I've been getting along without him, when for the 2 years prior, there was rarely a day when I didn't talk to him multiple times. It still sounds like a long time to me, and while I'm fine now, if I could measure time emotionally, it doesn't feel like nearly that long. I don't know how long it feels, other than "not that long ago." I've been around the sun 5 times since he died, hurtling 2,934,600,000 miles through space. Shouldn't it feel like longer?
It makes me wonder if I hold him too close, if I would be better off hiding the pictures and the keepsakes and putting away the candles. Because wherever he may be, I don't feel like he's holding me that close, not like right after he died. I can't hold on to him; I feel he's gone. So what am I holding on to? Where is the line between keeping space for a true love that I still feel, and keeping one foot in the past to my own detriment? Does that line actually exist, or am I thinking too much? I had something brilliant and wonderful with my A, and I don't anymore. But that doesn't keep me from still wanting it. And wanting an impossible thing is as sure a recipe for heartache as I know.
If there is a healing task that remains to me, it must be this: figuring out a way to stop wanting and missing what was. Figuring out how to cross over from wanting what I can't have to appreciating what I had with true acceptance of its impermanence. Figuring out how to have the love without the yearning. It is the difference between begrudgingly accepting that I can't have him here anymore because I have no choice, and being Zen about it, and cutting the ties that continually bind me to that past where I was, admittedly, happier, healthier, more loved and more loving. I guess what I'm saying is that I am not living my inner life in constant grief anymore, but I do think there's a pretty constant undercurrent of regret when my thoughts find him. You can only regret the things you accept as having happened.
I have to think it's possible. (And if it isn't, I'd sure like someone to let me know, so I can let myself off the hook.) But I don't have the vaguest idea of how to make that move. I've never done this before.