Here’s what I know: the idea of losing my husband terrorizes me. We have one of those “I go first” deals that I’ve heard many a wife say they’ve made with their husbands. I don’t want life without him and when I think about it, the emotions of that grief and fear can overwhelm me.
I understand the error in this, in keeping that grief so close. But I am, for some reason, someone who feels our frailty as humans down to my very bones. I have no grand illusions that death will not come to me or those I love. I know that it will, and that it can at any moment. I know this intimately; I think about it often. That drives Chad crazy.
A few months back, I was reading Addie Zierman’s blog, as she was reviewed some memoirs she’d recently read. She wrote this about And Life Comes Back by Tricia Lott Williford, “Warning: This book will annihilate you. I have been crying for days reading it… Who should read this: Anyone who has experienced loss. Or anyone who feels debilitated by the fear of loss.” Bingo. That last one, that’s me.
Tricia Lott Williford lost her husband of ten years very suddenly when she was just 31. I want to say I can’t imagine, but I can. I do. I mean, obviously I don’t live it everyday, but I do think about it. I imagine it and it tears through me. Her book annihilated me too, and I knew it would and I wanted so badly to read it anyway. When I told Chad about this book, he thought it was a not a good idea that I read it, but no, I needed to. It makes nothing easier or simpler or less terrifying, but it was so sacred to read the story of someone who lived my greatest fear and keeps going. She actually keeps going. She gets up and out of bed and everything.
I read the book while on a business trip in Utah. I was alone for two days; two days without Chad. That doesn’t happen a lot, which is good, but it did give me the opportunity to read this book alone, which felt right because I don’t want him to see me grieve for this woman and her lost marriage and think of my own husband and what would happen if. He hates when I do that. He hates my what-ifs.
So I started reading on the plane. Was that smart? Well, let’s see… I already knew going in what the book was about: she’s going to lose her husband. So here I am on an airplane, reading a page or two, getting choked up, putting my nook away in the seat pocket thinking, no, I’ll read it later, then picking it back up ten minutes later and reading two more pages before the tears swell up and blur my vision again and I reach for one of two tissues I packed with me… I put the nook down again, try distracting myself with games on my phone, but then think– just think– about the book and feel the tears come close again, redouble my efforts in the phone-game, give up, pick up the nook, read some more, cry a little, put it back down.
This is an hour-long process where I get through the whole description of her husband’s death, one page at a time, on an airplane, with two tissues. That was not a great idea. That night, alone in my hotel room, I read the first half of that book, including rereading the description of her husband’s death so I could properly cry through it. (I felt the need to properly cry through this book.) The next night I finished the second half, the hotel’s dwindling box of tissues on the night table next to me. And it was incredible and incredibly sad. It was honest and raw and beautiful, and I’m glad I read it because it just reminds me that sometimes the worst happens, but life does come back, even when you can’t imagine it will, even when part of you wishes it wouldn’t. Luckily, Tricia Lott Williford had support through her parents and friends, and I know I would too if something terrible happened. I am so thankful she chose to tell this story and how she’s kept going.
I pray for more time with Chad a lot. I panic when he doesn’t text me back, when I haven’t heard from him all day. I worry when his hand swells to twice its size for no known reason or his appendix bursts. I stress when he gets on an airplane to come to Utah to be with me. I panic and I go to God and I ask for more time. I ask for years. I ask to grow old with him. I ask to hold his hand, and sleep beside him, and feel his kiss on my lips until we’re old and gray, never knowing what God knows, never knowing how long we’ll have together in this life we’re helping each other stumble through. I have faith, but I know God made no promises about time, not to me or to Chad or to anyone else.
When the fear and the anxiety and the panic of death become so much I ironically think life is just too hard to live. This life is just too hard to live, because death is just too cruel. And yet, thankfully most of us would look at the good days we have with those we love and know that it’s all worth it. The pain of losing them is worth the priceless gift of having them at all.
‘Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch.
A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be–:
And oh, to lose.
A thing for fools, this,
And a holy thing,
a holy thing
For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.
To remember this brings
‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing, to love
what death has touched.
(Poem included in And Life Comes Back)