My friend’s wife died two years ago. Three years before his wife died, his daughter died suddenly. Three months after his wife died, his brother died, suddenly. His friends all looked at one another and asked over and over, how many losses can one person bear? How can he go on, get out of bed every morning? He has three daughters who remain with him, one in high school, two in their twenties. When I think of the losses they have had to live through in their young lives, I find I must let the thought go…. it is too unimaginable, too hard to fathom, too awful.
It is a Jewish custom for the grave marker to be put in place and for an “unveiling” ceremony to be held sometime during the first year after the person has died. The headstone pays honor to the memory of the deceased.
So today, a cold and dreary morning, we assembled in the cemetery, the deceased’s friends, her only brother, her three remaining daughters, her husband…… and his new wife. Yes, his new wife. He remarried two months ago. It is customary for the grave marker to be put up within the first year following the death, but understandably, maybe he could just not bring himself to do it. It meant thinking of what to write on the headstone, of how to write it, of asking his daughters for their input, for once again re opening the wound that would never heal anyway, but why keep picking away at it- there were enough daily reminders for that.
But then he met someone, who helped to make him laugh again, who made him smile, who helped to part the gray clouds and let some sunlight in again. She went with him to the man who makes the headstones, she helped him to see it through. Was I taken aback seeing her standing there in the cemetery? Yes. Did it make me uncomfortable to be in his deceased wife’s kitchen (the one she had meticulously redone a year before she died) eating food his new wife had prepared for us for after the cemetery? Yes it did. But it taught me a lesson that sometimes things in life do not fit into neat little boxes, do not take place in the designated time frame, that sometimes things need to happen when they are ready to happen, and who am I to judge when that right time is?
So one door closed, and it was a lengthy hallway that led to another….. but that other door did finally appear and open, offering a new beginning. It doesn’t take away the past losses, it doesn’t change all my friend has had to endure, but maybe now his future can hold some happiness that perhaps will put the pain and loss in the background rather than the foreground….and he will have the security of knowing that if the feelings of loss do arise, there is someone he can turn to.