Another year dawns. Nearly three have come and gone since she died. A thousand days and nights.
I’m still here. Still moving and breathing. Still living, more or less. I get out of bed in the morning. Put one foot in front of the other. Put on a smile for others. Sometimes I even mean it.
The knife wound of loss doesn’t hurt as piercingly as it used to. It’s more of an ache. The jagged scar fades a little, day by day. Agony breaks down the door less often. Hope seeps through the window now and then. But emptiness is still my closest companion.
Bob Dylan says it better than most. Writing about a long-lost love, real or imagined, he muses:
Most of the time
She ain’t even in my mind
I wouldn’t know her if I saw her
She’s that far behind
Most of the time
I can’t even be sure
If she was ever with me
Or if I was ever with her
Most of the time.
You drive down the road, go to work, visit friends, watch a game on TV (why the hell did I waste so much time watching games when she was here?). It’s just like it used to be. Except it isn’t.
I even date now. She wanted that, gave me her blessing in her last days. It’s something to look forward to, at least. Maybe I’ll meet someone for the home stretch. But I doubt it.
One of the things widowers wonder about deep into the night is why we’re still here and our beloved is not. Survivor’s guilt. Hwa Chong Bridges was so much better than I am or ever will be. I always tried for the grand gesture, the attention-grabbing project, the big story. Hwa worked quietly, served quietly, loved quietly. And she didn’t quit on things like I often did.
She used to jot inspirational quotes she had read onto post-it notes and stick them to the fridge. I found one recently on my desk: “Sometimes the hardest things are the smallest things – the things nobody sees or praises you for, the things that show real character and faithfulness.”
That was her. Faithful. Reliable as the sunrise. She approached almost everything – life, work, marriage, motherhood, friendship – with the same simple commitment. Me? Depends on the day, and how many cups of coffee I’ve had. And now there’s no one to keep me on the straight and narrow.
No. That’s not true. The Lord is with me, ever present, ever loving. She is with God. I just wish she were still with me.
“Girl From the North Country” was one of Dylan’s early songs. It laments another long-lost love who lives way up where “the wind hits heavy on the borderline.” I guess that’s Minnesota, where Dylan grew up. “Please see she wears a coat so warm, to keep her from the howling wind,” he asks a traveler headed that way.
To me, that undiscovered country is eternity, where my wife dwells. Or maybe it’s the high lonesome trail I’ve been walking for a thousand days and nights.
I’m a wonderin’ if she remembers me at all
Many times I’ve often hoped and prayed
In the darkness of my night
In the brightness of my day
So if you’re travelin’ in the north country fair
Where the wind hits heavy on the borderline
Remember me to the one who lives there
She once was a true love of mine
That’s my prayer too. Amen.