Yesterday we were at the lab at the top of the hill to get some blood work done and we took the opportunity to visit Mary Jane. We hadn’t seen her since the day Bernadette died so it was really really nice to connect with her again. She was such an angel when we needed one. I’m very much looking forward to going for coffee with her next week. Mary Jane suffered a similar loss over four years ago and that very last morning, ten weeks ago today, when she was here we cried together and she did her best to comfort and encourage me as only someone who knew the pain of losing a child could do. One just never knows how God is going to send us help in our time of need!
For some reason I couldn’t stop thinking of Bernadette all day today and had many tearful moments. This afternoon I had a coffee date with a friend in town so I went in a little early and because I was alone I was able to stop in and visit Bernadette’s grave site for the first time by myself. I don’t normally go to town alone and Catherine and Johanna are not ready to return to the cemetery yet and I need to respect that, so it was nice to have the opportunity today. It was only the third time I’ve been back and I was surprised to see so many fresh flowers everywhere. Someone had even put a pot of beautiful flowers on Bernadette’s grave! I’ll have to remember to bring a water bottle next time I go and water them. The ones Marc and I put there on Bernadette’s birthday were wilted and should probably be removed. I would have done it today but I had groceries in the back of the car. One more thing to learn as we go.
The only disturbing part was something I read in C.S. Lewis’ book “A Grief Observed”. I still don’t understand it and it bothers me and puts a shadow over moments like today. He was saying ‘passionate grief does not link us with the dead but cuts us off from them.’ He suggested that ‘our grandfathers’ generation went very far astray. All that ritual of sorrow – visiting graves, keeping anniversaries……. this is like mummification. It made the dead far MORE dead.’ I wish I understood what he was saying because I don’t want to make Bernadette more dead! Just before that Lewis said that it was when he felt the least sorrow that he experienced his wife ‘in her full reality, her otherness’.
I wish I could get to that point of ‘least sorrow’ so as to experience Bernadette’s presence around us and not be ‘cut off’ from her. I just don’t know how.
I have been following your blog and praying for you and your family rather than offering advice. But your comment about C.S.Lewis’ statement caught my attention and I thought I would give you a bit of my reflections about that.
I think that C.S.Lewis’ phrase “passionate grief” refers to those situations where the energy of the grievers is directed, over and over, to the grief rather than the one being grieved (although it looks like we are directing our attention to the one we have lost).
So, I would make a distinction. Your grief is normal grief, which is deeply passionate, and you are learning how it surfaces in multiple ways and places and times. Now, I am not sure how to say this, but if your focus on the death and loss of Bernadette became fossilized on the rituals that Lewis describes, then he is pointing out that the new life of Bernadette and the promise of re-union can take a secondary place, which makes it easier to miss those moments when Bernadette continues to be alive in your midst. How does the latter happen? Well–and I have not had the experience you have had, Patti, so please excuse me if I am being presumptuous, but in those moments when you remember Bernadette’s smile or her shyness as she clung to your leg or the joy she found in something or her love for her sister–all of those are ongoing gifts full of life, even if they bring tears because of the grief.
Again, I am not sure I am saying this correctly, but your visit to the grave, your memories that bring on tears, your sense of loss–all of that is part of grief and very healthy (a funny word to use in this context, but I think you know what I mean) and you do not need a ‘cult’ of Bernadette to keep her memory alive.
Does that make sense?
Grieving a Soulmate: The Love Story Behind “till Death Do Us Part”
By Robert Orfali
Thought it might interest you if you haven’t already read it.