“He doesn’t have to die every day,” she said to me.
I nodded in agreement. It sounded profound, like something I needed to remember. I flashed back to getting on the Greyhound bus to start the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine.
“No regrets,” she whispered in my ear. It was something I needed to remember so I repeated it as I walked down the middle of the bus to find a seat. It sounded like something Adrian would have whispered to Rocky. I have a way of being dramatic but this time, I don’t think so. It was something profound. Profound is hearing something so simple at just the right moment that it cuts through all noise and finds its way deep into your heart that it makes a difference.
So, when my wife said to me, “He doesn’t need to die every day,” I had to listen. I didn’t have a choice after it cut through the fog of life and settled into my heart. It made a difference. Warriors talk about the fog of war and how unfamiliar terrain and enemy create a fog to confuse. They also talk about how preconceptions and false assumptions are the biggest factors in the fog of war.
The fog of life is much the same way. For some of us, we’ve been growing or not growing under the unnatural assumption that our loved ones have to die everyday for us to remain true to them. But that is false. There will be days and times when their death is so real that the very saliva in our mouths dry up and our skin gets so tight, it hurts to rub it. It comes upon us and affects almost every fiber.
I don’t fight the feeling, I go with it, sometimes I pour it into the pages of type. And then it goes away or goes to the back, it goes somewhere for a time. Maybe I felt closer to him but the reality is that I am not closer, nor am I further, I just am, and he is just. Just let it be.
A long-time friend who I hadn’t seen in a long time blurted out, “So Aaron’s dead.”
“OK,” I backed up, “Let’s talk about Aaron.” But my gut reaction and explanation was no, he’s not dead, in fact he’s more alive than ever.
So now I realize, my wife was right, he doesn’t have to die everyday because he’s not dead.
I use to correct people when they talked about the “dead” in the present tense, thinking they were in denial. Now I realize I was the one in denial. They were the ones who saw life in its totality and it hurt. I didn’t want them to hurt—I didn’t want to hurt. What I know now about death is what I didn’t know about life.
Life, real life, authentic life matters, all else is vanity. Life is forever and a moment is a moment, but moments are more important than life because moments are what life is made of.
Willies sings that cowboys are special because they have their own brand of misery. My kid was a cowboy, and like Willie, “cowboys are always my hero… and their slow-moving dreams.” I miss my cowboy but no, he doesn’t have to die—not every day—not today. Cowboys live in today, they live in the moment because they know how important life is.
Today, I’m breathing in life. I see the droplets of rain on the door panes of my office, I feel the wind moving the trees outside my windows, but I feel my soft old dog laying at my feet and hear my sad Pandora song list. Today it brings me a warm satisfaction.
You have been praying for me and your prayers are being heard. Last week I talked to the head of a Literary Agency. Today is when the agency will vote to give me a contract of representation. I’ve been telling you my saga of getting my book published. This week after trying for years, an editor-in-chief could offer me a contract to publish my book. She’s a person who also experienced loss and knows how important the message is, that when we lose someone close, they don’t have to die every day, because, well, they just aren’t dead.
Andy is a Clinical Psychologist who lost his son in a tragic motorcycle accident and now authors articles on bereavement. The quiz is available! Go to http://andymdavidson.com/Home/Pgd to find out if you may have Prolonged Grief Disorder. Look forward to his upcoming posts, and books. Important: Click to follow him at his website, AndyMDavidson.com or Facebook.com/ThroughLifeandLoss to find out more about prolonged grief and find out first when his book is published!