Ch.157 Beautiful Service, Somber Burial, and Unending Grief

Ch.157 Beautiful Service, Somber Burial, and Unending Grief

Monday, July 25, 2022

            Pat was honored on Saturday with a combination funeral and celebration of her life. Everything went well. First, people came for her visitation, and then Pat’s long-time friend and chaplain AnneMarie Swanson led the service with grace and exceptional calmness. All three of my children spoke of their memories of Pat. We gave out a “Gift from Pat” to each person who attended the service, a kit containing:

                      One Common Rock

            Because Pat loved all rocks and saw each one as special, just as she saw each person as special.

                      One grandfather stone or a small geode.

            Pat collected grandfather stones around Lake Superior (with permission from a Native American elder). They are part of Pat’s spiritual being.

              Pat used small geodes in counseling, helping clients accept both their rugged exteriors and their inner beauty.

                      One Apache Tear. Pat and Ron collected these bits of volcanic glass in the Arizona desert.  

                     One seashell.  Pat purchased or found these shells whenever we went to the ocean.

                     One Lake Superior agate (polished). A reminder of Pat’s love of beauty.

                     One pinecone. Symbolizing the potential for growth in each of us.

            And then, on Sunday, we drove to Hudson, WI to the cemetery where Pat’s parents and brother are buried, to add Pat’s body to the family plot. The day was perfect, about 70 degrees with a gentle breeze, but naturally our mood was somber.

            Pat was there, in my mind, through the service and burial. But not today. Monday, July 25, 2022, marks my first day of truly living alone. Yes, Pat will always be present but now she is also in my past.

            Here’s how I know that I have entered a new realm. As I was showering, I began crying, as I have been doing regularly. But this time I sensed a presence, as if a creature were rising from the depths of the ocean, many tentacled, floating upward, wanting to enfold me. Mesmerizing. Patient. Unyielding. If these ocean depths are emerging from my subconscious, then surely this figure represents my grief.

            It makes sense to me to say that up to now I’ve been mourning – an active, busy state consisting of discrete bouts of tearfulness and actions involving seeking comfort from others. The word grieving, to me, hints at a more continuous inner state, always present, an emptiness that cannot be filled.

Grieving is an uncertain process. For most people it lasts several months, perhaps a year. For others it seems endless, leading to a state called “complex grief.” Personally, I believe I will grieve the rest of my life. However, by that I mean I will always carry a “good” emptiness inside me, the place at the center of my being where Pat and I resided as a couple. Perhaps grief isn’t the correct word for that feeling. But whatever the right word may be, I want to keep feeling it.