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Turning Tides

As told to Leah Gebber

I had never thought of death as anything but an empty void, a nothingness that would never be filled, until eventually the blessing of forgetfulness would dull the pain.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

I had never thought of death as anything but an empty void, a nothingness that would never be filled, until eventually the blessing of forgetfulness would dull the pain. But I was wrong, more wrong than I ever could have believed. For in the months before my husband died, I found a love and connection that has always eluded me. In the months before he died, all the brittle and putrid layers were chafed and rubbed and removed, and finally, after all those years, we found each other. Looking back, it was the usual story of emotional dissonance. When troubles hit, as they always do, he retreated. I grew angry at his lack of support, then offended that he felt unable to share with me, then rejected, then insecure. He was deeply hurt that instead of supporting him by granting him the space he needed, I blamed him, turned against him. Now I look back and think, why was I not more patient? Why could the gift of love not have turned into the gift of time? But what use are these questions? Asking them leads to a terrible tearing inside of me, regret that’s not an ache but a bed of nails; whichever way I turn in my thoughts, it tears at me. With the emotional dissonance, we held on to our marriage. It helped that we respected each other, utterly. And it helped that I was busy with family, children, a job, friends. Although, in retrospect, it pushed him away further: he felt that there was no space left for him in my life, and hurt, he retreated. But the butterfly, flutterby lifestyle was built out of fear. If I showed him that I needed him, and then he didn’t reciprocate, I was afraid I’d fall apart. That I’d grow so incensed that I’d demand drastic action — that we would separate. And deep down, I didn’t want that. As much as I hurt from his coldness, I loved him. “What did you see in your husband when you first met?” I was asked at one of our therapy sessions. Well, his grandparents were survivors, originally from Germany, and when life pushed them down, they lifted their chins and marched forward with pride. My husband was cut of the same cloth. And when we met, it was the soldier I saw, someone not swayed by the winds of change. A man unerring, who knew his place in the world and was committed to standing by his values. The day I realized I was wilting — the children were growing and I was shriveling up inside from lack of love — was the day I asked for a divorce.  


I had never thought of death as anything but an empty void, a nothingness that would never be filled, until eventually the blessing of forgetfulness would dull the pain.

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