When Wesley first passed away I cried incessantly. I cried in my sleep, awaking from fitful dreams to discover that my pillow was damp and clammy against my face. I would close my eyes, willing myself to sleep again and often failing. I cried until I had no tears left and was reduced to the weeping version of dry heaving; the act of crying with no tears produced because I had literally lived up to the saying of “all cried out.” A friend told me in those early days that I would never truly stop crying. I’d never end my mourning period and despite the feeling of things being better; they would never be all better again. The curtain of certitude and safety had been irrevocably pulled back and could not be hung up in the same way again. But as the days number and seasons change again and again I do find my grief and ways of processing it changed and different. My tears are less frequent and I can better predict the triggers that will start the ocular leaking process; often I feel like I’m in control in a life that can feel chaotic.
I feel that I should have reached my statute of lamentation. After this indiscriminate amount of time the widow’s grief shall cease and desist per the order of life or time or whatever. But that is not the case. The sucker punch is still out there and hits me when my dukes are lowered and I’m looking the other way.
Today I offhandedly mentioned to our babysitter that Wesley would have used the excuse of an upcoming black tie wedding in Manhattan to finally buy the Brooks Brothers tuxedo he always toyed with getting for himself. I would have come home one afternoon to the mysterious brown box on the front steps or he would have “happened” to frequent a Brooks Brothers store in his trial travels and have walked in the house, garment bag slung over his shoulder saying, “I really think I’ll use this, Katherine.” Wesley often asked forgiveness, not permission with me and this would have been another such time. He would have loved us going to New York as a family, showing Julia the skyscrapers and statues and meticulously researching Broadway shows and planning our family adventure. He would have delighted as Julia takes her first airplane flight home on this trip and watching her face which I’m sure will be a mixture of delight and terror as we take off, our bodies separating from the Earth.I animatedly told my sitter this and we laughed together sitting on my couch.
After my babysitter left I felt…off. Just emotionally akimbo and kind of sick to my stomach. I took my temperature worrying that I had a fever, but was fine. I chalked it up to a long day at my office and after getting Julia settled with a snack decided to take a bath, hoping the warm water would ease whatever weirdness I had going on. I sank into the water and immediately and quite surprisingly started crying; or rather sobbing. Ragged and chest heaving I buried my face into my knees and cried hard. It shocked me. Honestly my first thought was, “What the heck am I crying over?” I puzzled and thought as tears splashed the water around me because nothing glaringly stood out from the everydayness of my Thursday afternoon. It took me a while to realize that I was crying over the fact that I had so vividly imagined the family vacation we were going on. My family. Wesley, Julia and me with our hands clasped as we walked through Central Park stopping to look at the Alice in Wonderland statue, Wesley in a tuxedo and me in my long blue gown dancing at the wedding reception at the Central Park Boathouse and laughing about how glad we were that we would NEVER have to date again, Julia watching the clouds surround the plane as we flew home and the way Wesley would in his unique way look at me and simultaneously smile and wink at our daughter’s joy. I imagined it so clearly and believed it and in that fanciful daydream it was truth. It was real. My curtain was hung again straight and I was certain in my life. But in a moment, like a bubble in the bath, that illusion burst.
There will be no tuxedo delivered to my home and Julia will walk through Central Park with one small hand swinging free by her side as I clasp the other firmly in mine. I will again answer her question about if we will see Daddy again when we fly in the sky because he lives in the Heavenly clouds with God, doesn’t he?
I constantly tell others that my grief has no time limit but I think that I had stopped believing that myself. I thought that I was starting to become a widow who had overcome her broken heart and I felt strong, uneasy but strong. But I think the statute of my lamentation might not be quite as close to the ending time as I thought it was. And I’m comforted and at peace with it. My heart feels less sore and tight, my stomach less knotted and sick now that I’m at least momentarily not fighting against myself and my self imposed time limits and expectations of moving on. To dream of what could have been and cry over the loss of my family of three does not negate the life and altered family I have now. I can live in both places and cry as I travel from one place to another. There is no shame in the traveler’s tears as they are tears of pure unending love.