“It’s not table talk.” That’s how I learned to deal with death growing up. We didn’t talk about it. If we didn’t talk about it, it couldn’t touch our lives….
As I reflect now on this year of mourning for my husband, Chad, I realize that I was ill-prepared spiritually to cope with death. It’s been a surprising journey I’ve traveled these past months.
Initially, I envied Chad’s family their devout faith — their confidence in knowing exactly where he was. I didn’t. I started to lose faith — feeling G-d had failed me when my new husband died before we even had a chance to begin our lives together. And if that wasn’t enough — why had no one ever taught me about death? Heaven? Life?
And why would no one talk to me about it after Chad died? I’d get the downcast eyes in the supermarket asking “How are you doing?” with a look that indicated they didn’t really want to know. They wanted to know that I was okay. That nothing like what happened to me would happen to them. I was walking this huge elephant on a leash beside me and no one ever commented on it. It wasn’t “table talk.”
After awhile when someone would ask how I was doing, I’d say, “If it weren’t for my husband getting sick and dying, I’d be great!” This seemed to make people feel even more uncomfortable, which I admit I did somehow enjoy. If we don’t talk about death, we certainly don’t joke about it.
Then slowly something strange started to happen. I started to notice things. The sun would come up and I would stand, mesmerized by the dawn — breathing in the miracle of the new day. Never used to do that. I’d be out walking the dog and suddenly be struck with awe at the fact that I can walk. I discovered that the sky has an amazing array of shades of blue that appear between dawn and dusk. I began to know, somehow, that Chad was okay–even if actually understanding heaven is simply beyond our grasp. I explained to a friend that I wasn’t going to temple because I was praying all the time and he shared this prayer with me: Baruh atah adonay eloheynu meleh ha’olam shekahah lo be’olamo. Blessed are you, Eternal our G-d, sovereign of all time, whose universe holds such things.
In the depth of the sorrow of loss — I found something that I never truly understood before: FAITH. When so much was taken away — I was given an amazing gift…full of understanding and joy. I had finally sat down at the kitchen table and insisted on having that talk. I know now that death is simply a part of life — the next step on this amazing adventure. And I know that it’s all about noticing — noticing the miracle that is each day — and the miracle that is each one of us.
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