My wife’s funeral was April 6. Everything was perfect: the Mass, the music, the people, the cemetery and the traditional fellowship that followed.
I arrived back home around 3:30 and headed to the dining room table. I looked around and the reality of the moment sent a shiver through my body. I realized I was alone … very alone … and I began to cry.
I slumped into a chair and tried to restrain my sobbing. I took a few deep breaths and unconsciously stared at the book in front of me — an old book of quotes. I have no memory of placing it there, but must have.
I flipped it open and read the first quote staring at me. It was from Edgar Allan Poe, writing about his wife, “Deep in the earth my love is lying and I must weep alone.”
I read it again.
“How pathetic,” I thought. The great writer, it seemed to me, was embracing nothingness. Sadness.
My dissatisfaction with the quote jump-started my brain and my crying slowly turned into deep breaths. I began to consider Holy Week and the Resurrection approaching. I needed to be rejoicing.
But like everyone else, I am human. The death of a spouse leaves a deep hole inside. When you get back home after everything is over, you see her everywhere. That’s the way it is. You are wounded and bleeding. And I know this very well, for I lost my first wife 14 years ago to cancer.
Slowly, over time, the wound closes. Inevitably it leaves an unseen scar, which you learn to live with.
There in my dining room chair, with Poe’s quote still in my mind, and images of my wife all around me, I dashed again to my inner citadel, that is, to my Catholic faith.
The Catholic song that laughs in the face of death
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 dulls the ache in your stomach. It helps 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. We prayed rosaries and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy at her bedside. She was most definitely prepared for her impending journey.
Now we’ve just lived Holy Week, journeying with Christ through his Passion and death, and we begin this season of rejoicing at His Resurrection.
This year my wife gets to witness it all, up close and personal. I can see that great smile of hers beaming everywhere.
So I don’t have so much to cry about, do I? But I am human and I’m sure a few more tears will find their way into the days and months ahead. Still, the certainties of my faith will wipe them away.
Happy Easter everyone.
How my 7-year-old’s first experience of death was deeply imbued with peace … and even joy