I tell the therapist on last Monday that I am starting to experience something rather new: fear. I’ve always been an extremely fearful person- something I believe I inherited, but once I got the phone call- there was nothing more to fear, was there?
But strangely, a new kind of fear- enters my mind with a sense of entitlement that surprises me. If I think about a worst case scenario- like, oh, if I let Audrey sleep with those extra big blankets, she might turn into them and suffocate- there is no longer any voice saying, “Oh that’s silly, she’ll be fine, she’s 2-1/2.” Instead there is a quiet, smug voice that says, “Maybe…anything’s possible. Look what happened to your husband.” It’s not taking over my life, but it is a bit irritating.
“Fear is part of the grief work,” my therapist says to all this. “That’s normal. You’re getting to the place of reality.”
Do most people live in this particular place of reality, I wonder? Because I feel like most of them still probably hear that first voice- the one that tells them it’ll all be OK.
She searches in a drawer for something related to the stages of grief- a worksheet it turns out to be.
Really? Is the guidance I need in an overcrowded drawer, on a photocopied worksheet in neat little bullet points?
I realize lately that I just had no idea you could die at this age. It was an impossibility really. I was prepared for accidents and long stretches of hopeful prayers, but not the phrase, “Dan is dead,” a phrase where there was nothing required of me…nothing left to do but go from a typical day to a day of mourning and keening.
And just as it was an impossibility then, it requires a strange breed of “faith” now to believe that you are actually dead- there are no photos of your body- I have no real proof that it is true. My mind has blocked much of it out. Did I really see your body devoid of any life? “I just want to hold his hand one last time- so maybe I won’t look at the face, but just hold his hand,” I’d cried to a friend that first week. “It won’t feel like his hand,” she told me bluntly. It did not.
So, first I must believe that you are dead.
And then, I tell the therapist how I find my entire world view eschew. That previously I’d been one of those people who always believed there was a purpose behind everything- and often, one that I could discern if I struggled enough.
We got bed bugs in our Brooklyn apartment the week we brought our child home and had to lose everything we owned. Well, I thought, after months of depression- maybe we were all going to get hit by one of those crazy Bay Ridge drivers and die, and this has saved us. “I don’t know how, but I believe God was actually saving us,” I told Dan much later, getting choked up while I said it. I don’t recall his reply but he usually didn’t fall for my easy solutions masked as wisdom or spiritual prowess. I often thought I was the more spiritually mature- but no, it was you all along, wasn’t it? I see that now, just like I see so much.
And then there were the “lessons.” Maybe we had to lose everything because I was at the height of my control freakness and headed down a bad path. If it didn’t stop right then and I didn’t learn to let go, then who knows what kind of damage I would have done to Audrey as her mother?”
But then add this brief afterward, “Dan dies by drowning in Switzerland,” to the story I’ve just composed, and no, none of that makes sense. We were saved, and lessons learned, so we could experience the worst tragedy of all two years later?
I tell a friend last night while chatting online that if God is like a storyteller, this isn’t like a well-written tragedy, it’s just really poor writing. The other analogy- of God as a loving Father, this one isn’t working so well for me these days either.
The old analogies don’t work, and neither does the figuring out reasons and purposes for disasters and tragedies.
Now I see the kind of faith I had before in other Christians who have yet to undergo any real tragedy (you know, other than the drama we mostly make up for ourselves- I have done it very well for years), and as an observer, I see now how very small it makes the creator of the universe…it makes him too much like us- which he obviously can not be if he is what we believe him to be.
And then…when I acknowledge that I will not explain by feeling or reason- that I know nothing about this being who (assuming it’s true for a moment) fashioned me, his existence
Maybe this is a good place to start.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 9.10
I read somewhere online: "Faith untested is just a hunch."
That sounds facile and probably should make you angry. But still.
Also: Being afraid sounds like a logical human response to this world. It takes great courage for someone who comprehends all we have at stake to continue on life's journey and care deeply about others. One step at a time. I think you are doing amazingly well.