Sunday, April 17, 2011

Thought on starting my third year without Jeff

I am feeling rather as though my mind is a kaleidoscope. I look through the kaleidoscope – I see images of Jeff, the man I fell in love with, the man I married, the stepfather of my daughter, the life we shared. I rotate the kaleidoscope – I see images of the pain and sorrow that followed his death. I rotate it again – I see images of my daughter, when we were a family of three, as she has grown up during the last two years without her dad, as the wonderful and successful adult she has become despite being forever scarred by her dad's death. Another rotation – I see images of some of Jeff's friends who became my companions in grief and then my friends. Yet another rotation – I see images of my journey of grief, of hope and healing, of the slow rebuilding of my life, of the people I've met and the experiences I've had since Jeff's death, of my "new normal," of my commitment to embracing life all the more because I am keenly aware of just how fragile it is. Another turn of the kaleidoscope – I see images of my new life since this time last year.

I looked it up – the word "kaleidoscope" is derived from three Greek words meaning "beauty," "shape" and "instrument for examination." And that seems oddly apt. Because through the kaleidoscope of my mind I am able to see, to examine if you will, the beauty of my life with Jeff as well as the beauty of my life as I have rebuilt it; I see the people and events that have shaped my life and continue to shape it. The kaleidoscope reflects the patterns of my past and my present. It hints as to the possibilities of the future. The images tumble and combine to form the ever-changing patterns of my life.

For me, the anniversary of Jeff's death will never be a "normal" day. I think the experience of his death imprinted itself so deeply in my mind and my being that each year the awareness of the approaching anniversary flows through me unbidden, bringing the past back into sharper focus.

And yet, unlike the first year when I determinedly set the day apart and tried not to allow the reality of the present to intrude, there is a certain balancing of past and present that now comes with each anniversary. It is part of those ever-changing patterns in my kaleidoscope. This year I found myself alternating between, on the one hand, images of Jeff and memories of the past I shared with him and, on the other hand, how I live my life in the present, between the sorrows that will never fully subside and the joys of living. And that's okay – that's part of this journey, part of the ebb and flow of life. In these days which lead up to the anniversary and on the anniversary itself, I gave myself the quiet time I needed to reflect, I allowed myself certain rituals, I honored Jeff's memory. And around those times I will continue to live my life as it is now.

And so, as this second anniversary of Jeff's death approached, I found myself once again looking back at the man he was, at the life we had, at the love we shared. Yes, there is a sense of sadness and melancholy. But there is also a strong sense of gratitude, gratitude that he was part of my life, gratitude that he loved me and that I loved him, gratitude for the lessons I learned from him while he lived and in the aftermath of his death. I know that I will always love him, that I will always remember him, that he will always be part of me. I know that the life and love we shared will always be part of the kaleidoscope of my mind, part of the patterns of my life.