One of the scariest parts of grief for me has been the overwhelming vulnerability. When my husband first passed away, it was like my body was frozen in time: my emotions, my tears, and my heart were just numb. But as the cold shock melted and I began to feel again, I was left with the rawness of a broken heart. The kind of rawness where you just want to be held and protected; something that my husband did so well.
There was the vulnerability of not having prepared and having to make legal and financial decisions to the best of my ability. There was the struggle of seeing relationships with friends change and trying to sort through who I could trust and who was going to walk alongside me on my journey. There was also the struggle of knowing that I’d just surrendered some future dreams against my will, and that I could never get them back. I had asked God that night on the bedroom floor while doing CPR “please” …I knew He could figure out the rest. Whatever it took, I just didn’t want to lose my best friend. But my deepest plea wasn’t satisfied, and I found yet another relationship, this time of my faith, that was going to be forever changed, because while I would keep pursuing it, I had to accept there would always be “why” questions I would never get answered while on earth. Not only why I had to lose him so soon, but why I ever was blessed enough to have him in the first place and to share such extraordinary love.
As I sort through changed relationships and ways to trust again while guarding my heart, I have found that storytelling (and my new dedication to this blog) is one of the practical ways in which I can work on becoming stronger. In the act of deciding to offer pieces of myself, I learn more about what I’m really longing for.
I’ve always loved to write and Keith encouraged me to go back to school and pursue that dream. He made the financial sacrifices (joking that I was his boat and he sure hoped one day the investment would pay off) and put up with late night classes and a crazy schedule because he wanted me to use my gifts and find a career that I’d enjoy.
At night, I’d be staring at a blank screen or empty notebook, trying to complete a homework assignment and not knowing what story to tell or imagine.
He always had the same answer—tell our story. Then he’d grin and say it’s the greatest love story ever told, coming beside me and pulling me close. We had been through a lot, and I thought he walked on water, but I was always scared to tell too much of our story. It was so personal, almost sacred to me, and it felt like if I let the precious memories out I’d somehow lose them.
Since his passing, I’ve wanted to protect those memories even more. But I’ve found that the things that really matter can never be damaged or truly erased, even when human memories grow dusty or more new memories pile up against the old.
Words will never be enough to capture a life, which both hinders and ultimately protects us. I can tell the story of going to Dollar General and returning home with a kitten I paid a boy in the parking lot for to try and stop a bad situation. I can tell where I was when I made the phone call to my husband telling him (a cat hater) and me (not a fan either) that I had a feline passenger riding shotgun beside me headed to the house. I can tell the whole story, and maybe you’ll laugh, but I could never express the way it touched my heart when I rounded the corner of our house and saw him whispering to the kitten with the kindness and gentleness he showed all creatures.
There is a possessiveness that comes with grief, a wanting to be sure they are always yours, and a desire to make them proud that I’ve heard other widows struggle with. But in this reminder of the fragility of our lives, I’ve discovered a message central to the Christian Gospel—that love always remains untouched. No matter what the world tosses at you, love is a force that cannot be destroyed.
That leaves my days filled with the promise that come what may, our love endures, far beyond the memories themselves. With a promise like that, I’m not so vulnerable.