By Virginia Hadfield —
Two years ago, my husband of nearly four decades died in a foreign country. We had taken him there for special heart surgery but he died after 6 weeks of hell in ICU. At the end, the doctors asked whether they “should do everything, or do nothing.” I replied, “Do nothing,” knowing that my husband had had enough, that he would have hated to survive as an invalid, and that he hated the suffering and indignity of what was happening to him.
He was 72 years old, a man full of life.
In the 24 months since then, I have had to come to terms with the death of a beloved partner and find my own way after 39 years of being told what to do. My husband was a joyous but dominating man and our identity was as a duo; now that I am alone, I have discovered that I have an identity of my own. In many ways, these past two years have been an adventure!
Don’t think that I have not grieved; I have, and am still raw with loneliness at times, and sorrow that my husband had been defeated by his own frailty in spite of his immense inner strength. I long for him to still be alive and miss him with all my heart.
BUT in this profound absence there is an exciting new presence:
I have to make my own decisions (not all of them easy). I have, for instance, to sort out, on my own, a broken television. The re-plugging of a complex maze of wires is a Major Triumph, as is the replacement of a lock in an errant closet.
I do not have to feel guilty about the purchase of something silly.
I can wear my hair as short as I like.
I can take long baths without someone saying, “Are you going to be much longer in there?”
I can read late at night in bed
I don’t have to plan proper meals, I can eat what I like – asparagus and ice cream, for instance, for supper.
In these few random things is comfort. The feeling that you can take hold of your own life is heady and frightening and at times, difficult. You do, of course, have to discuss important things with your grown children; but in reality the decision – where to live, how to live – is in your own hands.
What really helps is a passion for something – anything – that occupies time and with luck, involves the company of other people. With me it is bowls – lawn bowls – which I play with enthusiasm about 4 times a week and which takes me out of myself for a couple of hours so that I have had exercise, company, and a goal for the day, and can more or less hunker down for the night without feeling that my life is empty, that evenings are long and lonely.
And writing the blog helps. Because there is so much to say; not only a tribute to the man I loved all those years, but about the constant discovery of my own vitality, something I never would have guessed.
There is life after death!
Virginia Hadfield writes a blog, http://thebutterflywidow.blogspot.com/