A friend sat down beside me Sunday before church and told me that she misses me. I knew, and so did she, that I haven’t missed any Sunday services. She meant something else, so I explained that it feels to me as though a buffer of gauze exists between me and the world. It’s that buffer that she senses. On Sunday it was 15 months to the day since my partner died. This gauze buffer is the current state of grief for me. My friend seemed to think it might be two years or more, so we surprised each other.
People are still offering advice about how to deal with grief. Some people think I’m going too slow; others, that I’m trying to go too fast. In truth, I’m not doing either but just being here, day to day, doing my work, tending to the dogs, and thinking constantly of how to deal with the aging cat.
I seek advice on the latter from God and from my departed partner and somehow the needed answers come. I’m not certain from Whom/whom, only that the answer has come from the Spirit world. And that’s enough.
A wonderful little book entitled Really Important Stuff My Dog Has Taught Me, by Cynthia L. Copeland, was among the last gifts I had given to my partner before her passing. The book is full of great photography featuring dogs, along with stories and bits of wisdom.
In reading through the book on Christmas Day, I came to this piece of instruction for life: “Keep going until you find your way home.” The story with the adage is about Mason, a terrier who found his way home despite two broken legs after a tornado hit his family’s home and carried him away.
Maybe getting carried off by a tornado isn’t so much different from finding yourself in grief or sudden loss. Like Mason, I am trying to find my way home. I mentioned to my spiritual director recently that one experience I’m having in dealing with the loss of my partner is I don’t know quite where I belong now. She pointed out that after many years of being a caregiver, I may be unsure who I am now that I no longer have the person I’d been caring for.
So my efforts to deal with grief are about trying to find my way home. I think Mason’s guidance is worth following: just keep going. And have faith that the right paths will open to lead where I need to go.
Can it be that the entire month of July slipped by without a post—actually six weeks? My life has been complicated by the loss of a very beloved pet, my Pomeranian Hillary, on July 1, and I have been coping (barely, apparently) ever since. The fact that she died unexpectedly while I was holding her on my lap only added to the shock and sadness. On top of that, and certainly related, my partner has had a painful case of shingles that came on right after Hillary died and continues even now. So, my household has been a learning ground here lately!
In this context, I came across this quote from theologian Reinhold Niebuhr: “An adequate religion is always an ultimate optimism which has entertained all the facts which lead to pessimism.”
Typical of Niebuhr, there is a lot to chew on here. First, how often do we see “adequate” and “religion” juxtaposed! At the least, it forces me to consider whether my own religion is merely “adequate.” I don’t want to believe that I have a just-get-by religion that scarcely serves me when I’m against the wall. In some senses, I have been against the wall for the past six weeks, and I can report that my religion has been more than adequate.
But it is really the rest of the quote that most draws me. The thought is that in order to be adequate to its purpose, any belief system calling itself a religion must have considered every fact, every avenue that leads ordinary minds to pessimism, and instead it must lead the believer ultimately to optimism.
That’s a religion I will follow with my whole heart all the days of my life.