A few weeks ago I reread C.S. Lewis’ A Grief Observed. It’s funny how a second reading can be so completely different from the first. The first time I read it I totally missed the point of the book. Maybe because at the time it was within a month of losing Bernadette and I was desperately looking for something, anything, that would help me in my pain and I didn’t find it. This second time was totally different. I suspect a third reading a few more months down the road will be different again.
Funny though, there was one line I highlighted: ‘respect for the wishes of the dead’ is a trap. Even though I highlighted it, I kind of dismissed it at the same time because Lewis went on to say, “I should soon by using ‘what H. would have liked’ as an instrument of domestic tyranny, with her supposed likings becoming a thinner and thinner disguise for my own.” and my thought was that Bernadette was not an adult with wishes and likes that would be used against us.
How wrong I was! In the last few weeks Zoe has caught Frozen fever. She wants to watch the movie every day and constantly asks for Anna, Anna, Anna. Catherine got the bright idea to show her the Elsa doll that the Anhels gave Bernadette when she was sick. It talks if you push her necklace and she sings part of “Let it Go” if you lift her left arm. Well, Zoe was totally taken with this doll. She wanted to take it everywhere and she made her sing so much it drove the rest of us crazy. When we’d try to hide it again, she’d walk around asking, “Where Esah go?” She can’t actually say Elsa yet. “Where Esah go?” was the last words out of her mouth when she went to bed last night and the first words out of her mouth this morning so I gave in and retrieved the doll from it’s hiding spot. It would have been totally cute, and it was, except for the fact that it was Bernadette’s doll and ‘Bernadette wouldn’t have wanted Zoe to wreck the doll’ as toddlers are apt to do. I found myself protecting the doll because it was Bernadette’s. In my head and heart I know that Bernadette could care less about the doll now, how does a doll compare to heaven and Jesus! I mean honestly. Yet I still fell into that trap.
Still in that trap mode, tonight at the end of supper the girls wanted to know if we could have a family movie night to watch Big Hero 6. My immediate gut reaction was to give them an excuse that I needed to spend some time alone since I’d been on the go literally all day. The truth was I didn’t want to watch Big Hero 6 because Bernadette really really wanted to see it this time last year in theatres because Catherine and Johanna had gone to see it and had come home and told her all the funny parts. The day she seemed to have enough energy to make the trip to town and I was free to take her was a Friday I think and the movie had left theatres the day before. She was so disappointed. The fact that I didn’t manage to get her to the movie has been a regret that has eaten away at me for a year now. I know it sounds silly but at the table I was in the process of making the decision that I would never watchBig Hero 6 because Bernadette didn’t. It would be a way of punishing myself and in a twisted way, make up for the fact that Bernadette didn’t get to see it.
But things didn’t go according to plan, as they’re apt to do. Marc said he’d really like to go to his office for a couple hours and work on an online training course he was excited about but he’d be happy to stay home and spend the evening with Zoe if I needed some alone time. I hadn’t been home most of the day so even though I would have dearly loved for some alone time, I knew the loving thing to do would be to spend time with Zoe instead of just leaving her with the kids and hiding out in my office doing nothing. So my decision to ban Big Hero 6 didn’t last more than a minute and we went downstairs to watch the movie with the others. Still I was determined I was not going to allow myself to enjoy the movie.
To my complete and utter surprise, that little act of love led to a truth that set me free! I sat through the movie in shock and came away with the firm conviction that had I seen it with Catherine and Johanna last year, I would not have let Bernadette see it. It was about a little orphan boy, Hero, who loses his only brother in a fire, a professor who thought his daughter was dead and was enacting revenge, and a robot who sacrifices his ‘life’ to save Hero and the daughter. I couldn’t believe the whole movie revolved around death, grief, and revenge!
By the end of the movie a huge weight had been lifted, as I was so relieved that I didn’t take Bernadette to see the movie. Even in her condition and our desire to make her last days the best we could, we as parents were not adverse to saying no to her if we felt it was the right thing to do and postponing watching Big Hero 6 would definitely have been the right thing to do for her. I can honestly say I don’t think she would even have enjoyed it.
When we came upstairs after the movie, Marc was home, and I was able to share with him the relief I felt to let go of my regret, after a year of using it like a club to beat myself up with. And there was a sense of peace too in knowing that even though things didn’t turn out the way I had hoped they would have last year, that God saw to it that they turned out to be what was best for Bernadette.
And to think, I almost missed the opportunity for God to set me free because of some twisted need to continue to punish myself for something that ended up being a very good thing. Oh what a goofy creature I am!