Author’s note: The following was written during Holy Week. It has to do with my wife’s death, funeral and the fresh grief that followed. I thought I should share it here.
Marty’s funeral was April 6th. Everything was perfect; the Mass, the music, the people, the cemetery and the traditional “fellowship” that followed. I arrived back home about 3:30 pm and headed to the dining room table. I looked around and the reality of the moment sent a shiver though my body. I realized I was alone . . . very alone. I began to cry (yes, men do cry).
So I sat down and sobbed and fought hard to stop. I blew my nose, took few deep breaths and unconsciously stared at the paperback book in front of me. It was an old book of quotes. I have no memory of placing it there but I must have. Just like that it was in my hand. (In retrospect I believe someone unseen guided my hand to it).
I flipped it open and read the first quote staring at me. It was from Edgar Allan Poe about his wife: “Deep in the earth my love is lying and I must weep alone.” I read it again and thought how pathetic that was. The quote from the great writer embraced nothingness. It was so sad. It also jump started my brain. My crying turned into deep breaths and then my thoughts jumped to Holy Week and Resurrection. I was supposed to be rejoicing. Whatever was my problem?
Well, like everyone else, I am human. The death of a spouse leaves a deep hole inside you. When you get back home after everything is over you see her everywhere. That’s the way it is. You are wounded and bleeding. (I know–I lost my first wife 14 years ago to cancer.) Slowly, over time, the wound closes. Inevitably it leaves an unseen ugly scar which you learn to live with.
Once again I mentally dashed to my citadel, aka my Catholic faith. It was that pitiful quote from Poe that made me realize I had been witness to a great journey. I had stood by as my wife received all she needed from her Catholic faith to advance from this earthly life to the next. I even posted on Facebook how she had received her “Jesus hug” when she arrived.
There is a grief process we all go through when struck by the death of a loved one. But our magnificent and comforting faith can become our “fortress of solitude.” It eases the pain; it can dull the ache in your stomach; it can help you fall asleep. (For me, a Rosary in hand is more powerful than any Xanax.) Most of all, our faith helps us to make sense of what has happened.
My wife was blessed to receive an Apostolic Pardon when she was on life-support. Seven days later she came off life support and the next day received Holy Communion. Two days after that, she was still breathing on her own but unconscious. The infection had traveled to her heart.
She was transferred to Hospice House and, upon her arrival, my son and I said a Chaplet of Divine Mercy at her bedside . The next day a group from the church came by and said a Rosary and a Chaplet in her room. The last morning of her life an old friend of mine from the SVDP Society came in and we said a Chaplet together. The Chaplet is very powerful when said by someone’s death bed. If I count the Apostolic Pardon, the Chaplets, and the Rosaries, plus Holy Communion, she was most definitely prepared for her impending journey.
Holy Week is upon us. We journey with Christ through His passion and death and then we rejoice at His Resurrection. It was all done for us for one reason—Love. This year my wife gets to witness it all, up close and personal. I can see that great smile of hers beaming everywhere. I have absolutely nothing to cry about, do I? But, since I am human, I’m sure a few more tears will find their way into the days ahead. But it is all GOOD.
Happy Easter everyone.
Copyright 2017 Larry Peterson
This article was originally published at Aleteia.org on April 17, 2017.