But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19
My husband passed away three years ago this Valentine’s Day – February 14, 2014. As I have traversed this grief journey, I am on the point in the road that people feel more comfortable asking me questions about “what it’s like”.
What is it like to lose your husband, friend, soulmate? I have given a lot of thought to this and the best description I can give that others who have not been on our journey can understand follows:
Think about when you plan and take the vacation of a lifetime and it turns out better than you expected. You plan for it, save money, buy tickets, purchase special clothing, pack, etc. Part of the fun of the vacation is the trip to your destination, because once you are packed, you are already on vacation, right?
When you arrive at your destination, you unpack and begin to experience wonderful things. You might take pictures, but you definitely drink in the experience of the vacation and make wonderful memories. At some point, no matter how long your vacation is, you have to think about going home. At some point, you pull out your suitcase and start packing the clothes and souvenirs you know you won’t need for the rest of the trip. Sometimes, during this process you have to go back to your suitcase because you have packed something away that you weren’t ready to and that you need. Still, at some point, you have to pack everything away and carry that suitcase to your mode of transportation home.
When you get home, you unpack and as you pull out the dirty clothes to make a pile for laundry, you also have the clothes you wore and were able to wash while away, so they can go straight into their place in your closet, ready to wear. You have to find a place for your souvenirs. You have to take your pictures to be developed and when those come back, wonderful memories flood through you. This unpacking brings both good and not-so-good memories and feelings with it. You often long to return to your vacation, but must stay in your day-to-day world and save money for your next vacation, whenever that may be.
Grieving the loss of my husband has been like what I described above. We had a wonderful life – full of memories. With his death, I had to start packing away parts of that life. It’s a slow process, because I have kept my “suitcase” on the floor of my bedroom, unlatched, because I couldn’t bear to finish unpacking. Once you totally unpack the vacation is really over. I still go to the “suitcase” and take out the souvenirs and handle them carefully and let them bring a flood of memories to my heart. Wonderful memories.
Each time, I unpack and pack this virtual “suitcase”, the sharp pain of my loss lessens. It doesn’t hurt as much each time I ponder our life together in my heart. There are memories that I would say should go in the laundry pile – hospital visions, bandages, tears. Then there are the memories that remind me of the breath-taking life we had – his smile, our laughter, shared meals, snuggling. I could go on and on. Those memories are wonderful. My heart has a tug of pain when I think of these things, but then it swells with happiness at having been the recipient of such a wonderful love, even if it ended too soon.
As I prepare to commemorate the third year since his death, I can look back on our wonderful life and not feel the sharp pain I once felt when thinking along these lines. I thank God that He allowed me such a sweet time with my husband and that my memories of that time are still fresh. I can ponder them in my heart and I do.
I encourage you to go to your “suitcase” and allow yourself to experience the wonderful memories of a life well-lived. Ponder these memories in your heart and let the pain be replaced by the sweetness of a wonderful time remembered.
Dear Lord, Thank you for the gift of love and for the wonderful memories that I hold in my heart of time spent with loved ones.