Traditional weights and balances for industrial scales at the cheese market in Edam, the Netherlands.
Nearly six months on from David's death, I have discovered that grief is not for the faint-of-heart. Turns out that grief encompasses a tsunami of emotion so huge and overwhelming, it can be handled only in small increments. Viewing the big picture at once could be enough to crack one's heart wide open; one might be tempted simply to burrow into a corner of the sofa and never get up. So I look at images of moments and events: bring them into the light and examine them, one by one. I search cherished memories for signs, for clues, for benediction, for grace. Then I carefully tuck the photos and recollections away for a brighter day, when - maybe, just maybe - I'll feel less fragile and more adept at handling the onslaught of conflicting emotions.
Meanwhile, I juggle frustrating estate-related bureaucracy in three countries, in turn laughing, crying and cursing at the absurd obstacles hapless bureaucrats place in my path. I remind myself that I am strong and can handle whatever comes - because surely the worst already has happened. My oft-repeated mantra is "just keep going," as I traverse this rocky, uncharted path.
I am buoyed by support and kindness from family, longtime friends and friends I've never met. I am dismayed and incredulous by those who have been guests in our homes in two countries, yet respond to the tragic news with silence. I wonder how such thoughtless people once were welcomed into our circle of friends.
No need for dieting as pounds are shed, along with tears. I reacquaint myself with the late great chef's stove and make miniscule meals. I drink tea with friends. I busy myself with bureaucracy and finance and essentials. Unexpected household demands include a new dishwasher, as well as replacing shattered stones on the front porch. I find myself so distracted by numerous requirements of this abrupt change-of-course, that I do silly things like buy a magazine (that I won't read) that I already have at home.
I avoid listening to music, lest tears flow unbidden. I rearrange furniture and cut flowers from the garden. I try to read or sleep, but a constantly-racing mind proves challenging. So I channel my energies and focus on one thing at a time: a single accomplishment; an object of beauty; a distraction that offers a moment's peace.
"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." - Alfred Einstein
I sit on the deck and feed the majestic swan, which has lingered past its usual June departure. I watch the birds in the garden and the Great Crested Grebes in the canal. I clear cobwebs from the ceilings and survey dusty floors with alarm. I purge files and papers and books and clothes and fill recycle bins with things no longer needed. I hire a notaris to draw up a new will and power-of-attorney, to meet requirements of changing laws. I try to understand Dutch, while reading official documents and newspapers. I watch Danish television series and French news reports. I drift through days and nights in a dream-like fugue of sadness and acceptance, straining to hear echoes of hope.
I play tour guide for friends visiting from England. I walk paths without destination and venture by train to places I've never been. I plan a memorial service in London. I write obituaries for various publications. I answer email, but can't keep up...
Some days I allow myself brief moments of anticipating the future without him: a long-delayed visit to family in the US; journeys to foreign climes; creative projects. I remember how much David loved me and believed in me and wanted the best for me. But without him, I feel so forlorn - and a little guilty contemplating the prospect of joy - that I set aside those plans for another day.
Even through the veil of sadness, I can see that day will come. After all, I didn't get this far without being an optimist. A brokenhearted and disillusioned optimist, but an optimist, nevertheless. Slowly, I re-learn to rely solely on my own strengths and abilities. Someday I will again stand in the warmth of the sun. And the memory of David's smile will sustain me.