By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published August 20, 2015
Grief hits like a virus. One moment you’re flat on your back weeping, and the next you’re marveling at how well you’re doing—“I went to the grocery store, paid three bills and fed the hamster”—until a wave of blackness comes from some unknown sea and knocks you down again.
The sadness sneaks up and seizes your heart, making your pulse soar as you glance around to see what monster might be stalking you—but there is none.
In fact, the world is still the same, with the sun flaming in the sky each morning, and dusk gently putting out the fire each evening. Hummingbirds still hover over the feeder, the chipmunk begs for seeds—and children scurry down the block on their way to school.
The world is the same, yet it is completely and utterly different because the one I shared it with is gone. My husband, Jef, the man I called “honey bear,” “fuzzy guy” and “Bubba,” is standing on a distant shore in a faraway place that I cannot see—while I’m in a boat slowly moving downstream.
He literally walked out the door and then out of my life, after a heart attack took him from me. I’m sad that I wasn’t with him when he died, but also grateful that the man who found him was a doctor who spotted him lying on a lawn about a mile from our house, called for help—and began CPR immediately.
By the time I got to Emory Hospital, where the ambulance had taken my beloved, I was panic-stricken and desperately praying—“Please, God, please, take care of him”—but it was too late.
I had expected to walk into a room and see him sitting there smiling, ready to share his adventures, but instead he was lying peacefully on the hospital table, looking like I’ve seen him so many times when he was asleep beside me.
He wasn’t slumbering, though, he was gone. At 55 and with no warning at all, he left this earth to journey to the land beyond time, a realm beyond my reach.
Grief is like going mad because you get up to find a butter knife and come back to the table with a pen. You are surrounded by brownies, chocolates and ice cream, but it takes a gargantuan effort to choke down a turkey sandwich.
You’re not angry at God but irrationally incensed when the hairdresser cuts your hair too short, and absolutely furious when the furniture delivery is delayed. You go for hours without crying, and then become hysterical when you see his shoes lined up by the door.
But even in the darkest times, there are moments of grace. The other night as my niece Chrissy and I were looking out the front window, we saw a parade of bluebirds, goldfinches, doves, hummingbirds and chipmunks—and the grand finale was a creature whose absence Jef and I had lamented during the summer months.
Seemingly out of nowhere a dark brown rabbit emerged from the undergrowth and sat before us, munching nonchalantly on leaves. “I wouldn’t be surprised,” I remarked, “if a white horse were to show up next.”
That hasn’t happened yet, but I fully believe it is possible. My husband, after all, left me in a magical kingdom surrounded by his artwork, which shows marvelous mythical beings like unicorns, a sleeping dragon and a bear reading a book.
We both knew the magic couldn’t last forever, but whenever we discussed death—usually on the deck while eating one of his gourmet meals—my love would remind me, “We only have this moment.”
Over and over the scenes replay in my head—the phone ringing, the mad dash to the hospital, the utter confusion when I ended up in the “family consultation” room, the blur when the doctor said, “We did everything we could.”
He was my best friend, my sweetheart, my soulmate and my confidante. He was a man of deep faith, who loved the Lord Jesus Christ and radiated his love.
At first I did picture him standing on a distant shore while I was in a boat moving slowly away from him—but at Mass this morning, I realized I’m not voyaging alone.
He’s still with me in some mysterious way, and together we will continue the journey toward the land beyond time—where, I hope, all my tears will finally be wiped away. Until then, goodbye, my dearest love!
Lorraine’s email is email@example.com.