12 Days of Thanksgiving
I didn’t really intend for my 12-day writing experiment to be a chronicle of grief. As I think through the theme of “perspective” and the ways mine has changed over the last year, I know it’s inevitable that grief will be a part of the story. The process of moving through this change has been my life. In hyper realism. I that process has helped me recognize the shifts in view. The catalyst. The recognition of loss and coping with it seems on the surface to be opposed to gratitude. After all, gratitude is so often about recognizing bounty. Not loss. And yet, it is in the presence of loss that bounty can be revealed all the more clearly.
Part of the loss I’ve felt so acutely is time. The time Mike would have had on this earth. The time my children would have had with their father. The time to heal wounds and restore. The time to see hope realized. The time to laugh and rejoice in living, something that seemed to be so completely swallowed up by tragedy.
Time is a funny thing. Sometimes we dread it. Sometimes we look forward to it. Sometimes we’re happy to have it behind us. Sometimes we scramble to catch it as it whizzes by.
Sometimes it’s excruciating.
This Thanksgiving season, I find myself so thankful for time. And the distance that makes time feel normal again. Just the fact that time keeps moving helps us recognize normalcy. It helps us re-create normalcy. Time can, indeed, be a great healer, as the adages say.
Time has given me two simple gifts this year.
In the great loss death produces, time — as it incessantly and consistently moves forward — becomes more treasured. I can’t help but treasure it more. I can’t help but want to make it count more. To want to spend it doing more that is worthwhile and meaningful to me. Faced with those choices, time (and the new awareness of its scarcity) becomes the great clarifying factor. It helps to single out what is important in that hodgepodge of needs I mentioned yesterday. The understanding in the most basic way that time is fleeting has helped me make some tough choices this year about what matters and what doesn’t. And, it’s helped me make some more joyful and hopeful shifts in how I choose to spend my time — even when it seems a little outside of typical.
Time does give us distance. And sometimes it’s the only thing that does. In the months leading up to Mike’s death, the frustration level of dealing with the symptoms of depression and the decisions it caused him to make became almost overwhelming. It eclipsed almost everything I knew and loved about Mike. Our whole history seemed to be tightly wound into that blinding ball of illogical thinking. In the months after Mike’s death, the whole of my thinking about him was wrapped up and lost in those few moments in which he chose to die. I couldn’t reach past it or beyond it. That was all there was.
And then — over time — that door cracked. It just began to crack. I found myself being able to bring up Mike’s name in conversation without feeling the steel ball of frustration rising in my throat. When the children asked a question about this or that, I noticed his name roll off my tongue more easily. Daddy would have done this or Daddy could have told us this. I watched their eyes light up as they were able to soak up a new memory of him — even in his absence. Then, as if by some miracle, I found myself laughing about something I remembered Mike doing. Just every now and then.
The gift of time was the gift of good memories. Of remembering good things. Of talking about good things. Even of crying out loud about those things that were lost — but seeing and knowing and remembering that those good things existed. The gift of sharing those things with my babies. Letting them soak up and confirm the good things in their own minds. Being able to remember that Mike loved us. In spite of his illness and his choices. And that we loved him. The gift of time was being able to treasure those memories again. To put them in their rightful place of joy — even a joy deepened by the sorrow that colors them.
I’m thankful for time.