As I was approaching this two-year mark of my husband’s death, I noticed not all is well yet as I’d hoped. I wasn’t expecting the impact of loss to disappear, but I was hoping for fewer experiences of active grieving.
This past month, a few members of Marv’s family have passed away. That brought grieving close again. I wished he was here to help me process those losses. On the other hand, I consoled myself with the idea that Marv was there to greet them in heaven. This song from my childhood gave me comfort: “When we all get to heaven, what a day of rejoicing that will be! When we all see Jesus we’ll sing and shout the victory…”
Like my post last month, a prompt from Carol Henderson’s online writing class this month helped me move forward a bit in my grief walk. Each part of this exercise was timed. This example is my timed and non-edited draft. You can do this too if you wish!
Pick an object. First, describe it. (I picked Marv’s cremation urn.)
A brushed silver vase sits on a bookshelf, floor to ceiling, that my husband made for me. The vase has a lid and stands ten inches tall. At its widest near the top, it measures twenty inches. At the bottom, fourteen. I’ve never taken the lid off. It sits at eye level on a shelf that also contains memorabilia from our Chicago high-rise life–a small replica of The Bean and a glace painting of our building with The Bean in the foreground.
Second, write about the feeling the object evokes.
The vase gives me comfort. I’m in no hurry to open it even though I told the funeral director to leave the heavy plastic bag inside unstapled. I told her I’d like to see what his ashes look like. Someday, I will open it. Not yet. It’s been almost twenty-two months.
Third, write a simile or metaphor about the object.
The vase is my husband. The vase is his solid presence in my life. The vase is like the presence of his groundedness. The vase is my mooring, especially now in the uncertainty of the world.
Fourth, write about the object from a different point of view. (I chose Marv’s POV.)
I don’t understand why Lois hasn’t spread me into Lake Michigan yet as I explicitly made that clear to her and the kids before I died. Of course, I always knew she would do what she wanted with me, but I thought this time she would know how serious I was and carry out my wishes.
Finally, take something you like from what you’ve written and write an ode to that object.
A brushed silver vase sits on a shelf in my living room. It’s been there since I took it home after my husband’s Celebration of Life service twenty-two months ago. I am simply not ready to disperse his ashes into Lake Michigan as he clearly and strongly requested. The vase is his presence for me. I tell him how I’m doing, what I’ve learned about household maintenance and cooking since I took over his roles. I tell him I miss him, but that I’m doing fine, quoting his words: “You’ll do fine.” I tell him it’s probably good he’s no longer here. He would be grieved over our current situation. Today’s Covid-19 and racism crises may be more that he, a life-long advocate for all children’s access to health care, could bear.
It’s helpful, as Carol says, to take the time to examine something slowly and closely. As with any timed exercise, she suggests we go back and finish the thoughts we started. Always surprising to me in this kind of free writing is that I never know where I’ll end up. I’m eager to see what surfaces from my subconscious.
Try it once. You may be surprised too. And you may have something interesting bubble up that you didn’t know. Writing can be a simple and easy act of discovery.