Real Presence

Jul 01, 2010

Eldon and I met in college. We were both performers. Crazy performers. He was older, wiser, more talented, thick with wit, and an all around gregarious person whom you were unable to stop yourself from gravitating towards.  We were never the best of buds, but I always looked up to him and of course, wanted to be more like him. I kept tabs on him throughout the years, and was devastated when I received word of his wife losing the battle with breast cancer. Eldon has maintained his wife's website through Caring Bridge and continues to write about his journey with grief. This particular journal entry was written the day after her funeral,  just six months ago. I found it extremely powerful and with his permission, I share it with you now.


Thursday, December 3, 2009 9:29 PM, MST

My deepest gratitude flows to so many who came to support our family at Heather's services, and who sent so much love from afar as well. I was so grateful to feel her near me so much, and only wish it could be even more tangible.

She has returned to me, and feeling her near calms my soul in much the same way she used to calm me before her death; sometimes it took awhile but she persisted and always succeeded. However, it's still also just not enough. In keeping with being honest in how we have shared this journey, I cannot say there is any deep peace - just enough of her presence to help me breathe for a little bit. Believe me, that is better than it was, but it's still the worst experience of my life. I cannot believe the amount of sorrow that can be borne while still walking on two feet. I have pleaded with my family and friends to fill my house and not leave; to surround me with chaos and noise that helps cover the unfillable void, and hopefully ensure that I don't end up wandering into rooms alone.

She is everywhere, in every room on every wall and in every space of life. The things she did inside our relationship that I have to make up for now, and the way she glided through our well-oiled balance in life; it all is constantly everywhere and completely gone. I talk to her, and that helps, but I can't hear her talk back. I've noticed that this kind of grief makes many people nervous in their own skin to be around, and I receive lots of reassurances or statements of "it'll get better" in one way or another. I sense that these sentiments are both because people care about me and want me to feel better, and also very much because people want to feel better themselves. They want to fix the problem and stop the spurting artery that is this loss. I cannot blame them, I cannot fault them, but I still don't want to hear it.

For example, Heather and I will be together as a family forever. That is true, it is wonderful, it is a blessing, and it is of VERY little comfort right now. I cannot see nor conceive of forever, and given a normal life span, I'm not even half way done with mine. It's like dropping someone in the middle of the Sahara desert and saying "if you ever get thirsty, comfort yourself by knowing that there's water somewhere, and keep walking!" It just doesn't help. It doesn't help my children who cannot grasp the concept of death. Despite my explanations, Emma continues to insist on praying that mom's cancer will go away, and Elle keeps praying that mom will come back. After all, if God took her and she's in heaven, why can't He give her back?! As far as I'm concerned, she has a very VERY good point.

Lots of people encourage me to stay strong and live worthy of being with Heather again. I'm not exactly sure what these people think I'm planning on doing right now but in case there's some general worry out there that I'm not privy to, I do not plan on going off the deep end any time soon. Though as a side note, I think if anyone ever was justified in "losing it" it would be someone in this situation. Still - the implication that I'll surely adopt a damning life of debauchery at this time is both disrespectful to my grief and to me, as well as unvalidating of my love of Heather. Maybe it's my comments and concerns about deity recently that spur these well-intended counselings, but just so everyone is clear I will work that out. I don't think it will be any time soon since God has a LOT of explaining to do and not a lot of credit with me right now. My faith has been challenged and shredded and there is no sense to be had about Heather's passing. I'm so grateful she was honored so perfectly and beautifully at her funeral services, but let's face it - I shouldn't have been honoring her, I should have been holding her at home talking about our day. I have been in the position in my life of believing that firm belief and strong faith are the comfort and solution to all things problematic; that was before. Without this kind of grief touching me (or, rather, kicking me repeatedly over and over) I might have maintained that impression for my whole life. I hope not, but maybe. Nevertheless, here I am, and I want to beg - please do not try to offer solutions or comforts to me that are not helpful. It just comes across as you wanting to console your own sense of discomfort and I powerfully need all the support and real presence I can get right now. If you cannot stand my grief, feel permission to say, "I'm sorry" and walk on.

I almost cannot believe that I would write and post that last paragraph, but I've been thinking about something I've heard a billion times for the last 14 months... "What can I/we do for you?" So there it is, I'm asking: be sorrowful with me or be still but please try not to preach to me or offer reasons why this really can be or is OK. It's not. It's just not. I love Heather so much, and miss her in a way I couldn't have imagined. You know, we were apart a couple of times in our 8 years of marriage for work or a retreat with friends - each time lasting no more than 2 nights. I have never been apart from her longer than this, and I am so incredibly lonely.

I described it to our friend Tosha today thus: until yesterday the pain was a constant stabbing again and again, and now it feels like a throbbing ache that won't heal over. It hurt so deeply to wake up this morning, it hurt to get out of bed, then as I began the slow process of working out financial and practical pieces of life, every little detail just ached inside. It's hard to eat, and it's hard to sleep. When I am asleep I have awful and upsetting dreams.

Amidst the horror today, I did laugh a couple of times with family or friends. It was nice, and that, of course, is the way of things. Life must move on and more laughter can come, but I can't understand why I must be left alone and with such an ache for all the rest of my life. Why my children must be left so. Elle has cried to me many times "now everybody else has a mommy except us!" This is just universally wrong. Seriously, I just hurt so much today. I feel like a complete grown up with all of the child in me having been exorcised.

And, I feel so illogical. I know life must move on. I know many people are there to support and help our family in the wake of this tragedy. And yet, seeing family fly home and friends drive away my heart still dreads that I'm already watching the stillness settle in where the world is gone. Again, I'm not saying that's happening, I think I have a better support system of friends and family than anyone could (who all, by the way, seem to understand the need to stay with me and my kids for the long haul) but I'm still scared. What if it isn't that way? Heather was never supposed to leave me, either.

So, it was a hard day. Obviously, it won't be even close to the last. But I love getting prayers and messages and cards, etc. that feel like one more 'butterfly' keeping me from a complete free fall. And, when I can and do, of course I treasure feeling Heather near. It's so wonderful, and just not enough.

Thank you again for being there in person or in spirit yesterday.

Loving all of you.




*I also learned that his sweet wife, Heather, shares a birthday with my little Lucy. I guess that would make both of us crazy grieving performers.


Jenna on 07/01/2010
I am so sorry for your loss. That is one of the questions I want to ask God when I get the chance. Why he ever takes mothers away from their husbands and little children. It is one of those things that makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.

June on 07/01/2010
So sorry for your loss.

Tiffany on 07/01/2010
I am so so sorry to read that. Why is life so unfair?

Bethany on 07/01/2010
Thank you for sharing your grief in an honest and real way. I lost my son almost two years ago, and there is nothing I hate more than people who try to tell me its okay that he died. Its not, it won't ever be. Forever families, gospel, yadda yadda...just NO. He should be here with me. Period. I won't ever be okay with the fact that I buried my child and now there is a hole in our family. That being said, almost two years out and I am happy. I feel peace most of the time. Our family is slowly healing. The stabbing pain is now a passing sigh. The endless circle of questions have for the most part, silenced themselves (not from being satisfied with answers, but from being plain exhausted). That doesn't mean its OKAY though. Just that, like you said, life goes on, and you do eventually begin to breathe and exist BE again. ~Bethany

Cortney on 07/01/2010
Eldon, I don't even know where to begin. Words seem so meaningless. After reading this, I read your last entry on your site. My heart aches for you. I can very much relate to the religious ideologies you that you speak of. So I will not tell you it will "be ok". Because for you, I know that it will not. I will only tell you that you are more of a man than I, cause I do not know if I would make it. The thought of experiencing loss as you have pains me so deeply I dare not go there. I can only tell you that I do not know you but I love you. I admire your strength (even though you probably feel it is weakness). I respect the great love you had for your dear wife and hope that you will one day feel whole again.

Shannon on 07/02/2010
What a touching post. I have never seen such a glimpse into someone's heart who has lost in such an open and expressive way (except for maybe Molly :). Thank you for sharing to let others know what it's like and to give perspective to we who may not really understand what you are going through. "...since God has a LOT of explaining to do..." and lines like that show how real your pain is. I am so sorry and pray for you and your family to have strength to carry on and endure.

Erika on 07/02/2010
Eldon - I don't know you. I found your comments via Agoodgrief. Thank you for your insight. I pray that I will be more sensitive to those that have experienced tragedy and loss such as yours. You have brought a new perspective to my life. Your comments were so honest, so raw. Today, I will pray that the Lord carries you through one more day. Heather was a lucky woman to have a husband as eloquent as yourself. I hope you see her smile in your girls' faces today. You have a beautiful family!

Sarah on 07/02/2010
First, I am so sorry for your loss. The though of raising a young family without a partner seems too sad to be true. I hope you are able to find strength through them to continue living your life. I lost my dad to a slow(3 years), terrible, painful and scary death when I was 17. I am now 23. It's been 6 years. It still hurts. Every. Single. Day. There is not a morning I wake up without missing him. I wish I could give you words of encouragement, but I can't. It's hard. Really, really hard. And just when it seems to start getting easier, it drags you back down. It's waves of emotion....sadness, anger, depression, confused. I hope that you will be able to grieve without a time line and as long as it takes. Thank you for speaking out, and letting people see how raw grief is.

Megan on 07/02/2010
Wow--what amazing writing and what powerful honesty. Our culture seems to be so uncomfortable with candor when it comes to grief--we're supposed to mask the raw ugliness of it with comforting platitudes. How brave of Eldon to defy that pressure and be real about his experience.

S. on 07/04/2010
So, so, so true. So real and sad. When my daughter died I also could not stand people's attempts at advice or consolation like, "At least you can try having another baby," or "You will get the chance to raise her in the Millenium," or even the cliche, "Our thoughts and prayers are with you." All well-intentioned, but hard to hear and unsatisfying. One of the best things anyone said was a hearfelt, "This must be so hard for you." Yes, it was! It is! Thank you for acknowledging my pain. Another pain from grief is feeling like time passing is taking us farther away from the time we spent with those we lost. I get a sense of this when reading Eldon's words. I was desperate for time to stand still after my daughter died, so my arm would stay sore from holding her for hours, so her nightgown would still smell like her, so I could still see every detail of her face in my mind. Time can be cruel. But I suppose if I had not been forced back into the everyday, I would be missing out on some of the greatest blessings of my life. Through deep pain comes the ability to feel that much more love and happiness.

Jenn on 07/04/2010
Isn't it amazing that the human body can keep existing when put through unimaginable pain and torture? It's unfortunate that it has to be that way. I will never get used to that. I am so so sorry for your loss, Eldon. Nothing can make it right, and I'm so sorry.

Brooke on 07/07/2010
I have a very different sorrow in my life, but your words speak the feelings that my soul is not able to form. After reading your thoughts I feel a strange clear. It's nice to have a moment with out the fog of being the only one in the world who knows what living Hell is like. May God Bless you and your family

Melene' on 07/09/2010
I am so sorry for your loss. Your post was amazingly powerful. You are living what is my greatest fear and I pray that you and your girls will be comforted.

Jenifer on 10/02/2011
I lost my husband a year and three months ago. It was a tragic accident that should not have happened. I live everyday with the most unbeliavable pain. It was nice to read your thoughts and know that I am not really all alone. I to feel like God has many questions to answer. I hope you have days were you can smile and breath.

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