UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds

Rites of Passage

Down paths of rediscovery

By Doug Charrett

No one could have prepared me for the death of my wife, Joyce. It was a cruel twist of fate that it happened on our 44th wedding anniversary. She never got to read my card. I must not falter. I will, however, begin to question what is important in life as I adjust to this new role of widower.

So here I am, not fully human, stumbling along the changing continuum of grief. The sun shines one day, and my spirits rise. Then I pass her photo and collapse into tears. I still glance at the crosswords in the newspaper, and for an instant, wonder if I should save it for her. Should I change the message on the answering machine? My son said that wouldn’t be wise. “You may want to hear Mom’s voice again.” It gives me comfort, but it also makes me cry.

The panic and numbness have subsided, and loneliness has taken their place. There is no shame in crying, I am told, yet that is not the culture I was brought up in. Be stoic. Men don’t cry. Let me tell you that some do.

Joyce was my social guide. I find it difficult to let go of that dependence and realize I must now do things without my loved one. Society thinks I should be over my grieving. Will I ever be over it? Not likely, but the sadness will diminish, I am told. And I have support from caring friends and a loving son and daughter, no matter how long it takes.

The weekends were ours. Long talks about travel; when to visit the grandchildren; watching movies; simple things done together. Now I am alone. Activity slows and there is time to think about what could have been. Meaning well, a friend says, “You did have 44 years together,” and I am grateful for that. Still, it hangs around me like dripping laundry on a clothesline. Sometimes I think, why me? But that just delays the realization that I must go on and discover my new role. Keep busy, they said, and I bought into that with a vengeance — hours in front of the computer, writing; many meetings. But that only lasted for a while, until I realized I was still grieving. I must have patience and be kind to myself.

The question “Why am I here?” was never difficult for me to answer. Purpose and meaning were everywhere. There was unlimited potential in my work life. Then, a beautiful and loving wife and two great kids, followed by the anticipation of our retirement years. Now I must really ask, “Why am I here?”

The numbness has now left me, like the freezing from a tooth, and my true reality is fully exposed. I have my children and grandchildren, but they are also grieving in their own way. Thank God for their support; how can anyone really understand who has not experienced it? But, they have full lives to cope with as well.

I wondered how something good could ever come out of Joyce’s death. But it did. My son Craig and I were never good at expressing feelings, defaulting to a warm handshake and a slap on the back. After Joyce’s death, neither he nor I hesitated to throw our arms around each other, like hoops on barrel staves. I had not seen his tears since childhood. I knew they showed grief and love for his mother, and I am grateful. Our awkwardness in greeting has now passed, and the love that was alive and anchored before, now flourishes unfettered in the full light of truth. Joyce’s parting gift has created a greater depth of love and understanding between father and son.

Until Joyce’s death, spirituality and religion had taken a back seat in my life. Her passing sent me down paths of rediscovery, at first like cold paths in the snow. On those paths, I experienced an emerging way of looking at my Christian faith. It has been best characterized by theologian Marcus Borg as “a movement away from literalism and dogma, and a shift toward a closer relationship with a God of compassion rather than judgment. It is marked by a yearning for justice, and a renewed sense of ancient mystery.” Those thoughts give me hope.

Doug Charrett is a writer in Prince Albert, Sask.
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image

Society

July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots

World

June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.

Justice

June 2017

Undocumented

by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.

World

June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.

Society

April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Society

March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image