Yesterday I was on a Florida beach, walking through the waves that rolled onto the shore. Today I walked through waves, too. Only these waves weren’t from the Gulf of Mexico. Today’s waves washed over me in the form of grief.
I had run into the boys’ school to drop off some items at the front office. The head of the school saw me and asked if I had seen the annual report. When I said not yet, he handed me a copy.
“Here,” he said, “You’re in there.” I took it, and told him I would look through it later.
When I sat down over lunch, I flipped through the annual report to find…. well, you guessed it – me. (Yes, I’m that vain.) But after a quick glance at each page, followed by a slower perusal, I found no pictures of myself. Maybe he meant the boys, I thought. Two out of my four boys were in a couple photo spreads. But not me. Then I realized he was talking about my name. Our names.
I read through the list of donors and there it was – my husband and me, side by side, just as we should have been, had it not been for divorce. My heart felt a tinge of sadness. When I got to the last page, I saw the names again. Our names. There was a list of all contributions made in honor of someone special. There it was: In honor of…Husband’s Name… from My Name.
I felt it rise. That feeling you get in your heart when it’s just about to break. You want to ignore it but you can’t, and before you know it your heart is in a fight with your brain.
Brain says, “You are hurting.”
Heart says: “I am not hurting. I’m fine. It’s unfortunate that things ended up this way, but I’m okay. Really.”
Brain: “Then why are the tears welling up in her eyes?”
Heart: “Don’t ask me. You’re the one who sends the messages.”
Brain: “Yes, just like I’m sending one to you now. You are hurting.”
Heart: “No, really… I’m… Oh, you’re right. It hurts. She hurts. I hurt.”
And so it went until my heart and my eyes started working together with my brain, and the tears flowed, and my heart ached and my brain sent the messages that things were not okay.
The memory of that contribution to the school, made in honor of my husband, was one more reminder that, once upon a time, I believed we would make it. I have read through a couple different posts tonight as I’ve been thinking about this and there’s one where I divulge the “secret” that my husband and I are having marital problems. https://lynnhouse.wordpress.com/2009/09/22/the-problem-with-secrets/
But the one that would explain all of this much better can be found here: https://lynnhouse.wordpress.com/2008/12/27/christmas-magic/
However, you only need to read these short paragraphs to get the essence of the blog post:
Instead of exchanging gifts this year, my husband and I decided to take the money we would have spent on each other and choose a ministry, charity or non-profit which we feel passionate towards and gift the money to the particular organization(s) in one another’s name.
As our four boys gathered around the Christmas tree, we asked if they would mind letting us open our envelopes first. They happily (really!) obliged. I had two envelopes. I gave my husband one. I had given the money to our sons’ school because we both believe in the school, in their mission and what it has meant to us as a family. After all, the main reason we moved downtown was to be in the community where the school is located.
When I opened my envelopes, tears filled my eyes. I could barely read one of them out loud. My husband had donated money to the Pourhouse, which is an organization that helps homeless people in our city. We have homeless men and women walking up and down our street. Often they walk on by. Sometimes they stop and ask for money. Some even come to our door. My husband knows how this breaks my heart. For him to give to this organization meant he was paying attention to my heart.
My heart. He knew my heart. And now he’s gone. And quite frankly, I miss him. I miss the fun we used to have. I miss the way we used to be so goofy. I miss the way we used to say, “Life, life, life” when we had no other way to express how much we loved doing life together. It was our way of saying we felt such joy in each other’s presence just doing the day-to-day stuff.
Recently, I visited our college campus with some dear friends who came in town for my birthday. I knew it would be hard to go back to the place where I met my husband. So many memories flooded my mind. A few days later, overcome with grief, I talked to my now-almost-ex-husband and asked him what happened. I knew what happened, at least cerebrally, but my heart was having a hard time catching up. He couldn’t really give me a satisfying answer because how can you possibly put the demise of a 17-year marriage in a sentence or two? In the end, he said it was time to move on.
Move on? We were together 21 years, if you include our courtship, and it was time to move on? I know he didn’t mean it to sound the way it did. I know there was so much more wrapped up inside those little words. Yet, I realized that it was precisely the way he said it that got me to the point where I could say enough is enough. I could no longer live in limbo. I had waited. I had prayed. I had pleaded. And I just couldn’t do it any more. I could no longer endure the uncertainty of living with a man I no longer recognized.
I don’t say that to portray him as a monster or even a bad person. He’s not. He’s actually a wonderful, loving, sensitive man. He just couldn’t be that for me anymore. And so he changed. And I changed. And we hurt each other. And somehow, through these last couple of years in particular, we made choices that caused us to take steps away from one another rather than toward one another. But even as much as my heart felt like it was going to shrivel up and die from lack of nurture, I still ache for what was and for what, sometimes, I still wish could be.
I still long for my husband, the man I fell in love with, the one I thought I would be with until death do us part. Well, death has parted us in a sense, but that’s another subject for another day. Today my heart is agreeing with my brain that everything is not okay. It’s not okay that we hurt each other. It’s not okay that we broke our vows. It’s not okay that we so often chose ourselves over each other. It’s not okay that our kids have to live with a fractured family. It’s not okay that we didn’t wait for healing to wash over us once more.
My heart can get a little overzealous sometimes and begs my brain to say something to my husband.
Heart says: Tell her mouth to say she wants him back.
Brain: I can’t do that.
Heart: You most certainly can.
Brain: You remember what it was like.
Heart: I do, but maybe this time it will be different.
Brain: How many times have you said that? Yet, I know you still hold on to some shred of hope, don’t you?
Heart: I suppose I do. And in that hope there is a dream, a dream that calls to him and says, ‘Forget the divorce. Just hold me. Care for me. Love me.’
Brain: Those are longings that should not have to live in dreams. Rather, they should be lived out of reality in a marriage.
Heart: Yes. But it hurts so badly.
Brain: I know it does. I know.