By Carmelene Melanie Siani
About seven years ago, over the Fourth of July weekend, we went to the memorial service of a member of our extended family.
“I just lost the most precious thing in the world” her husband said through sobs as he addressed the friends and family gathered there. With the new widower’s tears I reached over and touched my husband’s hand. He took hold and squeezed back—tight.
I’d been accompanying my husband when he went to the Benedictine Chapel on the anniversary of the death of his own wife– his own person who, when he lost her, was the most precious thing in the world to him—since she’d died three and a half years before. Sitting in the memorial service that Fourth of July weekend I saw the pain, the grief and shock on the face of the sobbing husband. I saw his terrible need and his terrible wonderment at just how he was going to go on from this point.
I saw it and I knew it because I have seen it and known it in my own husband. Certainly not manifested in the same way, my husband is a quiet, down deep inside himself type Englishman. The last thing he would do is sob in public. But still and all, I know him.
Marriage is in itself an interesting/terrible/wonderful challenge. It stretches us while it comforts us, pulls us beyond our comfort zones while at the same time offering us a comforting place. It doesn’t need to be complicated by the kinds of thoughts I have had over having married a man who had met me only 10 days after he’d lost his own most precious thing—a man who, despite his full, compete, and one hundred percent love of me—will always and always have loved another better if not simply because he loved her first.
And I complicate things with my thoughts.
During the memorial service I looked at the freshly grieving husband and wondered how in the world he would ever be able to gather himself together enough to put an ad on-line looking for another woman. I looked at the absurdity and of the impossibility of that yet, there I sat next a man who even though he held my hand as if he didn’t ever want to let go had done exactly that.
I know that I have been a great help to my husband. I know that I filled a hole. I also know that I can’t let myself dare to think those things because on the heels of such thoughts is the thought that they are the only reasons he wanted me, loved me, married me in the first place. Because I was there for him.
A life boat. A place in the storm.
I hate my complicating thoughts; especially the ones in which I compare myself to her—to the most precious one. I didn’t go to college while she was just short of a Ph.D. She played concert piano, I play third grade music. She was brilliant, beautiful, a light to the family. Independent. Traveled the world, on her own. I haven’t been anywhere and if I were to go, it wouldn’t be alone. I weigh more than she, am shorter, not as smart and, above all, I didn’t survive breast cancer for 25 years.
I’m just me.
My thoughts complicate things.
When we were at the Chapel once, my husband sat in silence remembering, recovering moments, reliving, reconnecting with her in the only way he could since that moment when she left forever, that moment when she took her last breath while in his arms. That moment when he sang to her. And there I sat wondering “What the hell am I doing here?”
Getting angry with myself for allowing myself to be in someone else’s shadow and…I know better. I know he doesn’t feel that way at all. I know it is just me, thinking and thinking and thinking.
And complicating things.
Back at the memorial service the family had installed a small pagoda-like tent in the backyard. There were flowers and just a few, perfect amount of chairs and a beautiful array of food and loving, caring, interested, concerned, people. It was just right. Just exactly right.
“I wonder what he’s going to do now?” my husband said to me on the way home in the car, referring to the sobbing, broken husband.
“He won’t get married again” I said evenly. “He’s not the type.”
“No,” my husband replied. “Besides, you’re already taken.”
I had the fleeting thought that with my husband’s tender words I might roll down the window, wait until we were crossing a river, and throw all my complicating thoughts and comparisons out the window down into the flowing water. That’s exactly where they belong, floating away in a river.
A river is very good at uncomplicating things.
Editor: Dana Gornall
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