Chapter Eleven

Chapter 11 – Undying Love

An invisible thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of the time, place or circumstance. Ancient Chinese

I am still in the fifth stage of grief – loneliness, but a wonderful thing happened as I read and reread all my favourite in memoriams, which gave instructions on how to refind the joy of living.

I became what I read. I stopped wild tears every time I thought of John or spoke of John. Instead of constantly thinking of the wonderful man I had lost, I started thinking of all the wonderful memories he had left me. I realized how much richer my life was because I had been married to John. As the old saying goes, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” I suddenly saw the rest of my life as his legacy. He is dead but I am still alive and can use all my remaining years happily and joyfully without guilt.

No amount of mourning ever brought a dead husband back to life and no amount of mourning ever resulted in a widow being a happier more fulfilled person.

Also, tears come between a widow and beautiful memories. Instead of concentrating on the past and my loss, I found I could celebrate the past with joyful memories as John would have wanted me to.

We were the Harlequin Romance of our time come to life.

For us it was love at first sight, or to be exact, love at first word. On our first date we talked without pause for hours on end. Where had the time gone! We thought alike. We had the same mental make-up. We had an immediate affinity. We felt like we had always known each other.

“When both deliberate, the love is slight!

Whoever loved, that loved at first sight.” Christopher Marlowe, 16th century.

I wasn’t looking for a husband. I had my degree and loved teaching.

Forget explanations. Meeting John was a miracle. For 42 years I knew I was the luckiest woman in the world because I loved John and John loved me. As my sister-in-law said when John died, “He was lucky to find you and you were lucky to find him.”

Ours wasn’t the Hollywood type love with fireworks and dancing in the park. We needed nothing but each other to be happy. We always put each other first, which was easy because we always seemed to want the same thing at the same time. We didn’t need other people. We were best friends and co-workers as well as lovers.

Anything we did together was special. I used to say John and I were so close I was never quite sure where he ended and I began. Without losing our identities we became one. Together we were more than when we were apart. It was pure synergy.

We share the same visions. We liked the same things. We finished each other’s sentences and we could communicate volumes with a look. To put it simply, John loved me and I loved john. John was me and I was John.

After we were married I understood the Greek fable of the Androgynous.

The Androgynous was a creature with four arms and four legs. Like Satan, the Androgynous was very smart and challenged the gods. Zeus punished the Androgynous by dividing the one element into two beings. Each had two arms and two legs – man and woman. The two separated halves sought each other ever after because they wanted to be reunited in human harmony.

That’s why we refer to our spouses as our better halves. And that is why we feel that half of us has been amputated when one of us dies.

Younger relatives refer to perfect marriage partners as soul mates and say such loves are predestined.

When John first died I felt like a part of me died with him. I felt like his funeral was my funeral. At first I wasn’t sure if I could survive alone. If I had been a Hindu woman I would have performed suttee and leapt upon his funeral pyre as Wagner’s Brunhilda did at a later date. I suddenly understood widows, who threw themselves on their husband’s grave after the coffin was lowered and had to be pulled out. Unfortunately, they had to learn to live on alone as did I.

We all find comfort in different ways. John left on St. Patrick’s Day which I felt had a special meaning. I read up on St. Patrick and found his Breastplate, which was very comforting. I am sure St. Patrick was inspired by St. Paul’s Ephesians 6 when he wrote the Breastplate. St. Paul said, “Put on the whole armour of God”. Motorcyclists refer to their helmets and leathers as full armour so it was easy for me to picture John’s soul flying up to Heaven wearing God’s full armour, including the helmet of salvation and the shield of faith.

It has extra meaning, too. John’s family goes back to 1066 in England. That’s when the first Benger came to England with his cousin, William the Conqueror. He would have been a knight in full armour. John was always fascinated by armour when we visited museums in England and Wales on our holidays.

At the funeral we were comforted by the words, “His love endures forever.”

Now I am comforted by St. Patrick’s Breastplate. I can live with the vision of my armour-clad John going on ahead of me preparing a place for all of us.

At New Years the family visited, and Meganne, the granddaughter, read the Breastplate and was so impressed she sent me an abbreviated copy for John’s first anniversary.

The Breastplate

Christ be with me,

Christ behind me,

Christ before me,

Christ beside me,

Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me,

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me,

Christ in quiet,

Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

As I see it the first ten lines describe him wrapped in the armour of his faith as he left us. The last two lines are a message to us as we carry on, loving friends and strangers alike in his memory.

A good man left us and he wants us to lead full, productive lives without him.

My thoughts went in circles as thoughts will but I came to the conclusion that it is pointless to live with one foot in the past when I can live with two feet in the future. John would not want endless tears. He would want us to remember the happy person he was and to laugh at the things he did as we used to. Somehow it was always hard to say John’s name without smiling. He always saw the funny side of things. And the wonderful thing is, I now can remember his jokes and laugh again.

The in memoriams gave me the gift of joy. They restored my happy memories again. I know I will make it. I will be able to live alone as a complete person without forgetting John.

The in memoriams gave me the inspiration I needed.