Sunday, May 4, 2014

CHALLENGE

Look upon each day that comes as a challenge, as a test of courage. The pain will come in waves, some days worse than others, for no apparent reason.  Accept the pain.  Do not suppress it.   Never attempt to hide grief from yourself.  Little by little, just as the deaf, the blind, the handicapped develop with time an extra sense to balance disability, so the bereaved, the widowed will find new strength, new vision, born of the very pain and loneliness which seem, at first, impossible to master.
                                                                                 --Daphne Du Maurier

Yesterday was such a challenge, and I didn't realize it as such until I read this morning's reflection from Martha Whitmore Hickman's Healing after Loss, headed by the quotation above.  Hickman went on to say, "When the waves of pain rise highest, we think we will be swept under, that we cannot make it.  But we can.  Our work then is to accept the pain, and to wait.  We can do other things while waiting--talk with people, go to the store, read, work in the garden.  Even as we do these things, we are aware of the pain, scraping against our heart. But if we accept these bad days as part of the course of healing, then better days, better moods will come.  The pain will moderate, and we can be confident--proud, even--in our newly acquired strength."

What tipped me into a downward spiral was a letter that came in the mail saying that my COBRA insurance coverage would end next month, when my husband had told me that I would be covered for a full three years.  Of course, being Saturday, there was no live person at the number they told me to call if I had questions, so I called my oldest daughter who has dealt with insurance issues for many years to see if she had any ideas about this.  She said I probably just needed to call and switch it to the state plan, but of course I can't do that until Monday.  I've been watching friends attempting to find their way through the Obamacare morass in an attempt to get treatment for two serious cancers, so I know that the bureaucracy is uncaring and usually ineffective.  And how I found myself wishing that my dear husband was still alive to talk with me, help me, and explain it all to me in loving, comforting terms!  My son was at his Sea World job all day, and although I went to the farmer's market, several of my favorite vendors weren't there, the cashier at the grocery store was non-committal, and I felt the aloneness in my house descend like a wall that cut me off even from the beautiful flowers filling my garden with color.

This followed a day when I had felt nourished and healing.  I had been able to get to Mass in the morning, I had a great French horn lesson when I was able to produce clear shining notes on my new horn, I wrote and thanked one of the poetry journals for publishing a recent poem, and I submitted three poems to a well known writing contest, where every other year I submitted only one.  All three were written since my husband got sick, and two since he died, and I judged that they had more heft than some of my earlier poems.  But one of them dealt with 
     cruel stupidity’s unexpected stings:
     the official who insists your husband
     must sign the form, just after you told her he’s dead.
It was probably revisiting that traumatic telephone conversation added to the insurance dilemma that sparked the oppressive heaviness of  most of the day.  

Fortunately, I was lifted out of it in the evening when I went to a dinner for the school some of my grandchildren attend.  My daughter Mary (whose two oldest boys are in third grade and kindergarden) came with me, and when I picked her up at her house, seeing all four of her little ones rush up to me with delight on their faces, was balm and solace to my empty heart.  It was nice to see a few friends from the days when three other daughters went to the school, and to meet Mary's friends, who were at the table with us.  The event was rather different than when my husband and I used to go--and I outbid everyone on three different scrapbooking baskets!--and that reminded me of time's inexorable rush forward. When I got home I was so exhausted that I fell asleep without any difficulty, and that was an unlooked for blessing since the past two nights I woke up almost every hour.  

When I got up this morning at 5 so I could practice before I left for Mass, life seemed to be opening the door to beauty and companionship again.  
People in the choir were glad to see me back, the couple who are the greatest admirers of my French horn sat in the pew next to me, and I will be going to a gathering of our Christian Community this afternoon with three couples who have journeyed with my husband and me longer than almost anyone else in the San Diego area.  Just being in their presence is like being wrapped in a warm and enduring hug.  Even when I slog through the pain, I know I am continuing to heal and find new vision.

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