To Lose a Wife
This is the first post that I’ve written in over two months. I do not know how long it will be till I write again, though I know I will. I’ve meant to several times, but there is a handicap in doing the things that you used to love. Reading, writing, listening to music, laughing…The window of desire for things of old is so short and if there’s a moment where I desire to enter it, it tends to shut before I can even make the first move towards it. It’s not apathy. It’s confusion.
Two months ago, tomorrow, B. passed away. My love and my life. Less than two years earlier we married, less than three years ago we met. What most people consider a blip on their timeline of life was my eternity, and in a split second, with the screech of tires, my eternity was gone.
I do not recall our final words. I called her at 8:57 a.m. A moments hesitancy before the phone call, since I knew she had an important career conversation scheduled at 9:00. “She probably won’t pick up,” I thought. But something compelled me to call her. It wasn’t an eerie phone call for that minute and a half. I had no idea what was to happen at 8:59. I called with her to joke about how some husbands don’t wake up in the morning to take care of the kids. I let her sleep in that morning as I took care of the kid’s breakfast and I saw an opportunity to jokingly make her aware…I remember her next words with lucid clarity: “Baby, those guys are scumbags. You’re a good husband and a good father. I’m thankful for you.” Those are words I will never forget. She could have been sarcastic back. Thank God she wasn’t. I have spent sleepless hours trying to recall what the next words were…a few sentences, probably of no real importance. And then…gone. I hear the crash in my head every day. The crinkling of the car like paper. A dog barking in the distance. And then, silence.
The silence has never stopped.
When you get married and start a family you think about death, routinely. What if something happens? What will I do if I lost my love or my children? How will it feel? Will I ever recover? I can promise you, the abstract thinking of such ideas is a million times further away from the heart than the reality. You may wonder what it’s like if the person is gone, but until you stare through that empty spot on the bed only to see the pale, white wall and an empty pillow, you will never know. This is not the sorrow of something temporary, now lost. It is the sorrow of one’s “now” becoming “never again.”
“Put the laundry on the bed and I’ll take care of it when I get home,” she said that morning. The laundry sat on the bed for days. Handwritten notes. The hair in the drain which I hated, but in the aftermath immediately came to love and wish would appear one more time. No more walking in church together. No more quirky voice mails. No more movies. Half my music is ruined because of memories. But those things matter half as much as the realization that we will have no more dates. No more children. No more kisses. No more arguments. No more ‘I love you’s’. What I wouldn’t give to merely hear the sound of her breathing again. Time has become my enemy.
We never had a perfect marriage. Trying to raise two kids, go to school, work two jobs, etc. takes a toll. We struggled at times, but I’ve come to love those struggles. How can I wish any different? That was the passion of her personality matched with mine. It was the life we joined into together and the marriage vows we took together. And it’s true…you never know how much you love somebody until they’re gone. I found a letter today that she kept at work…a letter I forgot that I had written when she was gone for a week, but she apparently thought it was important enough to keep. My last line: “I got the chance this week to realize what life would be like without you. I hated it.” To this minute, I still expect to hear her voice behind me or to watch her come down the stairs or to wake up next to her. I know she won’t. It’s a dissonance that I’m living with right now and I see no end in site.
What a sick and twisted world this is. It stripped her away from her family, her children, her friends. It stripped her from me. And how is it that some people believe this world is not that bad after all? Only when you find your world shatter before you do you realize how broken this world really is. Only when you see death do you realize the enemy that it is. I hate it. I want to destroy it. But this is my inevitable future, either tonight or tomorrow or next week or five years or fifty years. I am shackled, just as she was.
Some people have tried to offer comfort, and some legitimately have. But to talk about “this is God’s plan” seems naive and vain. It tells me that somebody has never stared death in the face in such a way. The same people who say this will turn around and say “She should be here, Randy.” Well? Which is it? She should be here or she shouldn’t? If, by “should”, you mean “statistically” she should be here, then yes, I agree. But you should say just that. This is why neither atheism nor theological determinism has any chance of over running me. If by “should” you mean what I mean–that this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be at all!–then I agree. Can God work through this? I suppose, though I haven’t come to know that yet. It is what my faith holds to though, and it is what I have to believe. But to say that God “designed” this or to say that there is no God and that this was all a bunch of hellish bad luck cannot do justice to this situation and it cannot do justice to this world. I stare at that wall every night and she should be there, in every sense of the word. This wasn’t meant to happen. The world is broken and that’s all there is to our world at the moment. Please, do not tell me that this is part of God’s plan. This is the world, crumbling in on itself.
The one thing I know is this: There is no “answer” to this. I searched for that answer in vain and have recently realized any pursuit of it is futile. I can search my entire life and there will never come a day where I can say ‘Ah, that’s why.’ But B. found redemption. And redemption isn’t an answer. It’s a Person. And that Person suffers with me. That Person suffers with her family. That Person suffers with the children. And that Person fixes brokenness. That Person is the one who can destroy death and who can conquer the crumbling of this world. That Person is the one that B. put her trust in, her faith, her future, and her present. How can I walk away from what was so central to her life, even though I don’t understand Him. “Your God will be my God” (Ruth 1.16). That was our marriage verse. And if there’s anything I do, even in grief, it is to commit myself to her testimony, her witness, her life, her God even in the silence.
Son,’he said,’ ye cannot in your present state understand eternity…That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, “No future bliss can make up for it,” not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory…And that is why…the Blessed will say “We have never lived anywhere except in Heaven.” – C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce