1. Your Table is Ready
Losing a soulmate may be the toughest death to bear, short of losing a child.
Losing a mate at a relatively young age is even worse: Who the hell do you talk to? What do you say to the kids? How do you “get over it” and get on with your life?
About nine years ago, the great love of my life exited on a staircase outside his condominium. Heart attack. He did literally drop dead. Neighbors rushed to help. An ambulance was called. He never regained consciousness. Through a bizarre set of circumstances, I did not find out for two days. Instead, a mutual friend met me at the airport and told me when I got off the plane. Boy, did that make me wary of air travel.
Five years ago, I got a call from a friend who said, “Ann , you gotta talk to this guy.” She was referring to someone I knew only vaguely through my work. Couldn’t even have told you what he looked like.
“You gotta talk to him,” she said, “‘cuz he just lost his wife, and he’s miserable.”
I knew his wife had been sick, and might have even heard that she’d died. And by that time, I had gotten through the worst of my own “valley of the shadow of death.” With apologies to strict Christians literalists everywhere, that’s what that passage really describes: the months and years after losing someone. Death shadows you 24/7.
By this time, I was starting to be kind of evangelical about talking to other people who were going through what I’d gone through. So I said yes.
This guy and I agreed to meet at a tapas bar. This was a cozy little place with a Mediterranean feel, good inexpensive wines and authentic food. I wasn’t exactly trolling for dates, but let us just say that that side of me had been awakened recently.
Still, this guy had just lost his wife. I knew how that felt. I knew prospecting would be the last thing on his mind.
For his part, Mario was sweet, but in the freshly wounded stage. Soft smile. Sad eyes. Weary eyes. Unlike the instant shock of here/not here, he had experienced the slow drifting away that comes when someone is intensely ill, whose life ebbs a day, a moment, a nanosecond at a time. And all you can do is care and cry and watch.
Our conversation began with comparing notes – and listening. See, once you’ve been through this you don’t mind if a person wants to talk on and on and on about their lost beloved. Or how they feel. Or how unfair it is. You don’t have that shallow perspective of the “new girl,” jealous that he’d still need to talk about the “old girl,” someone he might have even loved better than you. You don’t care because you so understand the urgency of talking. And you don’t get tired of listening. Been there. Done that. Understand. Not threatened.
From this unlikely beginning, Mario and I forged a friendship that eventually deepened into more. But we were both so fresh from losing the “great loves” of our lives – we’ll talk more about great love vs. other love later – that we created our own little Dead Mates Society grief group. Membership: two.
And when we’d go out to dinner – food and drink figure prominently in both our professions and our lives – we got to where we could joke that we needed “a table for four, dinner for two.” ‘Cuz for the longest time, "they" were never far from anything we did.
This blog will take you on my journey and our journey – from the ripped-from-your-chest pain of initial loss to the quieter surrender and acceptance that comes with time. Some of it ain’t pretty. But, you know, we don’t talk much about death in this society. We don’t have a cultural way of dealing with it, except to deny it. Or tart it up with rouge and embalming fluid. Go somewhere else if you’re looking for platitudes. Return here if you’re interested in a grittier view of life – and there is life – after death.