Monday, December 1, 2014
A Thankful, Angry Heart
It is the week of Thanksgiving, and all around me there is the message to be grateful, to be thankful for what I have, and to count my blessings.
I am thankful for many things—my brothers and their families, who made sure I got to visit them, my cousins and aunts and uncle, who made special efforts to see me while I am here, my son and his girlfriend, who travelled from faraway places to support me in my visit.
I am thankful for Stan’s family and for the beautiful part of the world he gave to me. I am thankful for my spiritual community, and for Stan’s friends and neighbours, the loving people who have supported me in the aftermath of his death.
But today, I am feeling tired and sad and angry. People say it is not possible to be angry and grateful at the same time. Perhaps those people have not faced great loss. This grief journey has taught me that I can carry a multitude of feelings, often conflicting, at once—gratitude and anger, joy and sorrow, hope and despair. We hold all of these within us, and try to function at the same time, to smile and interact and focus and pretend that we are fine, so that those around us won’t worry. No wonder we are exhausted.
I am thankful that I met and loved this man.
Lately, I have pondered this question—if someone were to tell me that I was going to meet and fall in love with a man who would change my world, but that I would only have him for a short time, would I have risked it? Would I have taken the plunge, knowing I would face such deep sorrow? I like to think I would. But maybe not. Maybe I would have been too afraid. Maybe I would have chosen to stick with my safe, predictable life, in order to spare myself this grief. So it is probably a good thing that I could not have foretold our fate, before we met. I would have missed so much. I would have missed knowing him.
The truth is, on this day, I am angry that he is gone. I feel cheated. I found the love of my life, and I was meant to grow old with him. And in 3 ½ short years, he was taken from me, at the drop of a hat. Before my very eyes. I don’t know how to be grateful for that.
Some people claim that everything happens for a reason, but I can’t believe it. I gave up on that belief when my mom and sister died. I can no longer conceive of a higher power that has some grand plan for us. How could such a cruel fate as this be part of some grand plan?
There is no sense in it.
I prefer to believe that all things rise and fall, and that every being is part of this ever-changing flux. Sometimes it feels so random. But it is just the way of the world. There is not a lot of easy comfort in this belief. That is why we practise acceptance.
Some things are easier to accept than others. And it may take me a few more months or years to reach that place of acceptance with Stan’s death. At the moment, I rail against it. I hope that, at some point, I will come to a place of peace.
Stan had a thankful heart. Every day, he woke up thankful. He would draw the curtains open and praise the weather, even if it was grey and wet. He joyfully accepted the cups of tea I brought him. Even on the last day of his life, the day of his son’s funeral, when he found it difficult to get out of bed, he thanked me for his morning cup of tea.
I am angry and I am thankful. I am thankful for the time I had with him. I am angry he is gone. I hold both of these things in my heart.