When Everything Changes

Some Thoughts on the 4th Anniversary of Losing a Spouse

Standing in the hallway of St. Vincent’s Hospital exactly 4 years ago, I thought about many of the things in our lives that were about to change. I did not anticipate that everything would change.

That first night I went to bed alone trying to wrap my head around what had just happened. I woke up several times in the night. I got up long before the sun came up and looked out the window hoping daylight would take some of the darkness from my soul.

The first thing I realized was no one else was going to make my bed. Such a small thing, but it was the first reality I faced. So insignificant, yet so symbolic of the hundreds of things I was about to take on. I could barely wrap my head around the loss, and yet the enormous realities of the changes were already presenting themselves.

As the months passed, trying to find normalcy in life, trying to identify the things that would be different, a stark realization emerged. Everything had changed. Not some things, everything. The more time passed the more I realized everything within my perspective was hued with a blue tinge.

At first the changes seemed transitional. My new tasks, like folding laundry and navigating a grocery store, seemed transitory. They felt like temporary bridges to somewhere I was going, and I slowly realized these were the permanent tasks of life and they were not going away.

Some of my friends disappeared after first condolences. I came to realize they probably never were my friends, but they had been our friends, or actually, Joyce’s friends, and like so many other things in my life, I had been along for the ride. Joyce was gregarious and full of life, and with many parts of my life, I had simply and happily been along for the ride on her journey. When she was gone, that ride quickly slowed and came to a stop.

Since Donna and I found one another and have started building a new life together, we’ve talked much about this. The dynamic of every single relationship in our lives changing with the death of a spouse. Every single relationship. Some grew stronger, some changed and matured, some went away, some remained intact but became perfunctory, but they all changed.

Dreams changed. Work changed. Focus changed. An understanding of what was important in life changed. The way I deal with unimportant and trite matters changed. Our faith has changed and deepened. My relationship with God has changed, for the extreme better–but that took time and some relational tunnels.

In short, every single thing in our worlds changed in some way.

We have battled the blue tinge. It was as though a cosmic and huge paintbrush had applied blue watercolor to every thing in the world. We, by a force of reality, see everything through a blue filter tinged by grief. The blue is fading, but I suspect it will never be gone. Those who have had big losses know what I’m talking about.

It’s been four years. Four years. Occasionally someone asks me if it seems possible that it has been four years. In the very same moment I cannot believe it has already been four years, and I cannot believe it has only been four years, for it seems like it happened last month and it simultaneously feels like an eternity ago.

Several months ago I told Donna that I was tired of the blue tinge coloring our world from the perspective of the death of two spouses, hurting and growing kids, joint complexities of loss, building a new relationship, and normal life transitions. I decided to embrace joy. It is part decision and part process, but I decided. I decided to be joyful and happy. That is a big part of what this blog is about, pointing the way to joyful living in spite of painful circumstances. I believe this is what Christ provides for us.

I am not THAT guy who obsesses over a loss and makes everything in life about the loss, but it is inescapable. Part of a mission I’ve been given by God is taking the unique perspectives and gifts he has given me and writing about things that few others want to write about from a place of acceptance and wholeness, but I will. Not because I want to, not because I need to, but because I feel called to do so to put into words what others are feeling so they will know they are on a wonderful journey where joy will triumph.

On this 4th anniversary of the beginning of the most difficult season of my life to this point, I give honor to the one we lost. Joyce, you made everyone you touched feel special. You had a gift. You were greater than you knew. You made a difference. We miss you, but you finished. In God’s time, you finished well.

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