An unexpected journey into healing from the loss of a loved one
|(Originally written in 2003)
In an essay entitled "A Piece of Chalk", G.K.Chesterton said he once planned on writing a book of poems devoted entirely to the items in his pockets. He discarded the idea because he said the age of epics is past. I, on the other hand, find the undertaking fascinating. Although I have no desire to write a book of poems, and I carry my essential items in a purse, not my pockets, I have no idea at this moment what I consider essential or what is in my purse.
I have several requirements of a place to store my life. It must have an adequate number of zippered pockets and compartments. It is this factor alone that makes choosing a purse an event rather than a purchase. Mine has zippered sections for confidential items, an opened section on the outside for items I need to reach quickly with little fuss and two very deep inner pockets held together by a snapped strap. Why do I need all this room? The answer can be found in its contents.
In the zippered sections I carry my keys, checkbook and cell phone. Essential? Absolutely. I have just noticed my wallet is not in a secured zippered section, but in one of the two inner pockets. I'll have to re-think that one. Along with my wallet I have a pen, various store receipts and some crumpled tissues, although it's unclear whether they have been used. In the other deep pocket are two address books that I rarely use, a prescription bottle of tranquilizers, a tin of chocolate mints, my church directory, an empty bank envelope along with a bank brochure, and a bus ticket for May 3 for the 703 bus line at 4:33 P.M. I am confused about this receipt. I have absolutely no recollection of being on a bus that day. That was the day my husband passed away. I was notified of his death at 6:45 P.M. But apparently, on that day, I was traveling to or from somewhere. Strange how things change so quickly..in a blink of an eye. One minute you're on a bus and within a few hours your life changes. One minute you're searching the contents of a purse and the next minute it all comes back.
And so now I see these items in a different light. The first that comes to mind is the church directory used on May 3 to notify fellow members of my husband's death. Within minutes my living room was filled with people. Caring,loving people. Prayerful, supportive people. And no doubt, the tissues were given to me by one of them. I did use my two address books that night to call people I used to work with. And the bottle of tranquilizers? Now, I remember. A couple of days after my husband's death, the nurse at my doctor's office called. She had seen the obituary in the newspaper and called to see if I was all right. She told me she was going to call the drugstore with a prescription in case I needed something. It was the day of my husband's wake.
In another of Chesterton's essays, "On Mending and Ending Things", he says that "mending is based upon the idea that the original nature of a thing is good...a thing is either bad or good in its original aims and functions. If it is good, we are in favor of mending it, and because we are in favor of mending it, we are necessarily opposed to ending it." I don't know yet how to mend. I only know that at this point I am opposed to ending it. The end of grief is the beginning of a life I know nothing about. But if I choose to close my mind and pretend it didn't happen, I will never allow myself to heal.
I know the most important item in my purse is the bus ticket. I have no idea why I was on a bus that day. But I do know why I have the ticket. I praise God and thank Him for his gentle reminder that I must move on and begin to mend.