As I've written before since Ken died, "firsts" are difficult--both figuratively and literally. It was June 1st when Ken left us. Today marks the three month anniversary of losing a man who brought a texture, depth, dimension and a sense of play to my life that will forever be unmatched. My head knows those things didn't leave with him, but my heart has very different and stubborn opinions about that. I couldn't help but think of him today--and thinking about the day when I lost him. All the emotions and some of the pain surged back; however, today was also one of those days I was able to mitigate it and not let it take me over. Solemn, but not parlayzingly sad.
I think part of the reason I had the control I had is because of a wonderful experience I had yesterday. Something unexpected, but welcome happened. I went to a luncheon yesterday for my group at work. I had misgivings about going at first because I was afraid that--though well-intentioned--I would feel overwhelmed by well-wishers who knew of Ken's illness over the past year. But a I sat at my desk, he spoke to me in a way. "Why not?" echoed in my head, and I somehow felt empowered and decided to go. It was late enough in the timeframe when I arrived that it wasn't very crowded, but the few people I saw were so sweet and kind, talking with me and asking about how I was doing. It wasn't upsetting in the least. It was reassuring…and just lovely.
When I finally sat down to eat my lunch, a co-worker came over and asked very politely if he could sit down with me. "Of course," I said. I didn't know him well or work with him directly, but whenever I saw him we always exchanged pleasantries and smiles. He asked how I was doing and expressed his sympathies for me and my loss of Ken. He told me we'd both been in his prayers and that I continue to be. Then, the conversation took a turn I never would have expected. He shared with me that several years ago, he'd also lost his partner. It had been more sudden than my situation with Ken, but as we talked I'll never forget how I began to feel--in a "good" way. For the first time ever since losing Ken, I was talking with someone who knew EXACTLY how and what I was feeling. And it meant a great deal to me. It was a mixture of sanity and depth of understanding I'd never felt before.
I'm lucky to have the friends and family that I have to lean on and grieve with, but what I found stunning was that someone--with no emotional stake in me--would be so brave and so generous to share such a life-altering loss with me. It didn't necessarily surprise me, but because I didn't know him that well, I found it utterly kind and courageous. He spoke from a perspective that I have only seen glimmering mili-seconds of, but I found it comforting and reassuring nonetheless. I hadn't been having a bad day, but this experience turned my day into something exceptional! My mood for the rest of the day was light and positive and encouraged. In spite of the fact this is a blog, it's difficult to explain all the nuances in words.
In addition to all the people in my life--at home and at work--his act of selflessness in discussing something that I know I couldn't possibly talk about now with any level of comprehensibility, sort of…how do we say…"restored my faith in humanity." When someone who doesn't know you that well goes out of their way to share something so private and potentially painful in order to help you deal with your own personal hell, it swells one's spirt. It goes back to "connecting". Our loss connected us on a level that isn't something you ever aspire to, but it offers a comfort that is unparalleled.
I think what is remarkable--not coincidental--is that I was in a place where I could receive that kind of generosity and know what to do with it. I hope I am that kind of person someday. To be able to reflect on and discuss this heart-wrenching loss with kindness and compassion in order to help someone--whoever it is--deal with it or see it just a little differently. To help them heal. To give hope.
It's hope we all feed on and what we all need.