by Jan McDaniel
"Even if you can't see it, your destination is out there. 200 feet at a time." (Toyota summer/fall television commercial 2015)
True for the journey, no matter how you travel, these words remind me of my struggle through grief, especially the very first part. I loved my husband for thirty-three years; he was my life. And then he was gone. I could see no future, no time when I would feel anything other than pain.
Early in our marriage, we used to talk about such weighty topics as life and death. I suppose every couple has that kind of conversation at some point. How do we want to face the end of life? What are the best decisions regarding the care of our children? Should the one who is left remarry? Are there certain people we should consult for advice if the unthinkable happens?
We had it all planned ... except that nothing happened the way we thought it would. As another television commercial advertising a popular health product shows, we don’t get advance notice of when our heart attacks are coming.
I was sure my husband and I would take our last breaths together in our sleep one night, passing from one peaceful existence to another wrapped in each other’s arms. We would be well into our ninety's, and our children would say, "This is how they would have wanted to go because they loved each other so. This is the way it was supposed to be."
Life does not stop for grief even when we need it to. I did not plan for my daughter to walk alone toward her handsome bridegroom. I did not realize my husband's recounting of his dream that last morning would be his last. I did not think of holding his grandson in my arms for the first time without his arms around me.
Yet, I have done all those things … “200 feet at a time“ … and I celebrate his life every day. My husband was so much more than the way he died.
When my daughters smile or my grandsons laugh, when I see in a beautiful spring day all the echoes of days my husband and I shared that were good, I know I can never return to those innocent moments in which I could just read about loss without knowing how much it hurts. But I also know I can share the joy he brought to my life and the way he made the world around him better.
And those grandsons? I will tell them the stories he used to tell and share the things he did and said. I will sit in a sandbox or push a swing and pass the love he gave me on to them and they, in turn, will one day talk about the grandfather they never met as if they knew him.
And they will find their own destinations … 200 feet at a time.
Jan McDaniel, a writer from the southeastern United States, lost her husband to suicide in 2007. As a blog columnist and community forum moderator for the Alliance of Hope for suicide loss survivors, she writes about survival, connection, and hope. www.LightThatBringsHope.com