To keep a lamp burning we have to keep putting oil in it.
This was the quote for September 27, the 11 month anniversary of my husband's death, in Healing after Loss. Martha Whitmore Hickman's reflection on this reflects very much my own experience as I approach the one year anniversary next month: "At first we are almost immobilized. We do what we have to do and are grateful for the customs and rituals that guide us through those first days." My beloved husband died at 4:14 PM on Saturday. From Friday morning until he died, we had friends coming to our back yard to pray and sing as they heard that he was near death. Many said the Rosary, or prayed in silence. At one point, I heard a dear friend who is a bass in our choir, sing the Divine Mercy chaplet. On Friday night, several couples from WorldWide Marriage Encounter came and prayed and left vigil lights on top of the tall tomato trellis in our garden. My daughter and I went out to blow them out, since it was very warm and windy, and discovered they were lit by batteries. We left them on all night, since we could see them from our bedroom and if my husband had chanced to be awake enough, he could have seen them from his hospital bed. I found the sight of them incomparably comforting. My two oldest daughters took turns reading the Liturgy of the Hours to my husband since he had prayed it for many years, and whenever they reached one of the prayers that was said every day, we could see my husband's lips moving as he prayed with them. They also took the night shifts so I could catch some sleep, and both of those last two mornings, when I awoke, I found both their babies asleep next to me. That was not only comforting but deeply healing and I think of that often as they grow and become more dear to me. When dear friends arrived to pray just after my husband died, they offered to let them know at the parish, since they were going to the Saturday evening Mass, so we didn't have to make that call.
My daughter asked me if I would rather go to the neighboring parish where not as many people knew me, and I told her I would set my alarm for 5, as I have done almost every Sunday for the last four years since I rejoined the choir, and see how I felt then. When the alarm went off, I got up and dressed and warmed up on the French horn, and the routine just carried me along. All of the family who were there came with me and sat filling up an entire pew right next to my spot in front of the choir, our choir director let me choose the Communion hymn we sang, and our pastor in his homily mentioned the faith of our family even in the face of death. I suppose we were all somewhat numb, and yet I felt a great sense of solidarity with our parish, where we had lived for nearly 30 years, our Marriage Encounter community, and everyone else who reached out to us both during my husband's illness and after his death.
The flood has pushed me forward into Chapter 2 of my life much faster than if I had undertaken it on my own, and on the anniversary of his death yesterday, our son went for orientation at the young Catholic university, where my husband had been one of the five founders. It has been a long and winding road for our son, from a year at community college to a year at home helping us when my husband was ill to working in the education department at one of the local vacation destinations. I have had to think about what I should be doing with the time I have been given much more quickly as I am working with my reconstruction agent to design my office and redesign some of the rest of the house, and to redesign my financial plans as our son begins at a private university. All of this upheaval gives me very little time to sit around and feel sorry for myself; instead, I am constantly being called to keep putting oil in my lamp so it will glow brightly and light the lives of others.