By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published April 16, 2020
I rustled around in the basement, checking to see what food items were stashed on the shelves. Opening a sealed container, I unearthed boxes of pasta and a gigantic bag of rice.
They were some of the supplies my husband had squirreled away for emergencies because that’s the kind of guy he was.
He was the planner, the one who purchased battery-operated lanterns for times when we lost power. The one who kept the vitamin supply filled—and made sure we didn’t run out of homemade wine.
The thought of facing a pandemic without him filled me with fear. He was my protector, my rock, my best friend.
During big storms, he liked to watch the clouds crashing in the sky and the wind bending the pine trees in our yard. He wasn’t afraid of emergencies but rather saw them as challenges.
He’d been raised in the country, where his family had a garden, beehives, chickens and wild blackberries in abundance.
He knew how to survive in an environment where the nearest store was many miles away. He was creative with what was available, whether it was scrap wood to build a doghouse or slightly wilted vegetables to make a splendid stir fry.
He was a comforting and confident man, who helped me face my fears. He saw me through a scary cancer diagnosis, as well as chicken pox and pneumonia. Nothing seemed to rattle him, and I believe he’d take even this pandemic in stride.
But he’s been gone more than four years, so now it’s up to me to find my way forward. What else would he stash away in the basement for this situation? I asked myself.
Then I managed to get a decent amount of canned goods, peanut butter, cooking oil—and a large assortment of Hershey’s chocolate bars.
Fear, however, has been tough to manage, because my imagination is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing when I envision plot lines and the nuances of fictional characters. A curse when I confront the future and fall into a pit of what ifs.
Since his death, I’ve had a cold or two, but they were quickly over and easily managed. But what if, I ask myself, I get this terrible virus? Let’s say I don’t have to be hospitalized but can stay at home.
How could I get through this without him? Without the comforting sound of dishes clanking in the kitchen, as he concocts some kind of nourishing soup? Without the realization he’d be there in seconds if I just wanted to talk?
“I can’t do this alone,” I protested to the walls when the shelter-in-place order began.
When I heard public Masses were suspended, I wept, and when I realized I couldn’t hug my friends, I wept again. It was like every little shred of comfort was dissolving before my eyes.
“Jef, what should I do?” I asked him—and then went into my study and saw what I’d written on the whiteboard after he died.
“Lean on your faith.” This would have been his advice when I was grieving for him. And this is what I’ve done since his death, by attending daily Mass, offering my Communion for him, praying at adoration, taking Bible study and thanking God for the happy life we had.
My husband had a deep faith and trust in God’s providence. He had a favorite quote from a letter author J.R.R. Tolkien wrote to his son: “There is a place called ‘heaven’ where the good here unfinished is completed; and where the stories unwritten, and the hopes unfulfilled, are continued. We may laugh together yet.”
Faith doesn’t mean simply believing in God’s existence, but rather trusting he hasn’t forgotten us and knows what we need. For me, it means realizing God lovingly sent me my sweet husband, my protector and my best friend and knows how much I miss him now.
Faith assures me we’ll be together again in a place called heaven, where we can talk about the years we’ve been apart. And in my imagination, I sometimes see us on the back porch again, toasting the sunset and laughing about the gigantic bag of rice, which has become part of our unending story.
Sketch by Lorraine’s late husband, Jef, is titled “Gothic Dreaming.” Lorraine’s email address is email@example.com.