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Disorganized Grief

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26 Days. But who knew?

It wound up only being 26 days, but that’s a long time. On day 22, I did not know that Jane would be better on day 26, a mere 4 days away.

It was the late winter after the election, and Jane had a virus. A nasty, nasty virus. At some point during that time, she had a bacterial infection, as well. Sick for 26 days.

For scores of days in a row, we all laughed a lot. When I brought home the wrong type of toilet paper – for a second time – everyone was amused. The kids and I referred to Jane as “the old lady who we let move in upstairs, and she just sleeps a lot.”

I was of good nature and good cheer. We laughed at the absurdities of life.

But, then, on day 22, I cracked.

On day 22, when the cashier asked, “How are you today?” I cracked. I didn’t follow public discourse. I honestly answered:

“I’m totally exhausted, my wife is sick, and we don’t know why, and the kids and I are worried, but really aren’t supposed to be, but it’s been long enough, and I just told Jane that I would take care of her until the midterm elections – in a year and a half if I have to – but I don’t know how to do this much longer....”

People often speak about the good old days. As though living life could ever have been easier than it is right now. There is a fact that causes a perception problem, making the past seem less scary than the present:

When the future of the past is also in the past, then that past will seem to be less frightening than now, when the future is still unknown.

My father’s gauntlet through middle age is much less frightening to me than my own, not only because it happened outside of my consciousness – it happened to him – but also because the future of my dad’s middle age anxiety is in the past – we know how it winds up.

People living through the Cuban missile crisis didn’t know how it would end. That was scary. Same for the Israelites at the base of Mt. Sinai after their leader had climbed the mountain and not returned. And for the apostles who did not know that the last supper was just that. Peter, Paul, Mark, Luke, and John didn’t know after they saw him slain on the cross that they would ever sense his presence again.

On day 22, I didn’t know Jane would be better on day 26. Had I known, I would have held it together. And, thankfully, I didn’t. I broke.

Let us take stock of the present and remember that we do not know the future. And, that it is frightening.

The Psalms suggest that we need turn our hearts to God. To surrender. To accept this world as it is.

That’s what I did on day 22. I broke. I broke. And, it was exactly what I needed to do.

With love and hopes that you fall apart when you need to as well,

rB

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