One of the patients assigned to me for the shift put her call light on. I walked into her hospital room and she said, “I want to get up for a short walk, but I’ll need your help.”
I said, “I’ll unplug your IV pump while you roll to your side and sit up.” Leaning over, I put slippers on her feet and a bathrobe over her shoulders. As we walked, we talked, but kept to light topics. Returning to the room, the patient wanted to return to bed so I helped her in.
As I worked and answered her questions, I was thinking about the things that had happened to me a few months earlier when my husband unexpectedly died.
There were times in the year following his death that I would wonder with amazement, “No one knows I’m having these thoughts! I’m acting calm and untroubled while remembering the sheriff coming to my house, walking into the emergency department and seeing Arnie dead, making decisions that I never thought I’d have to make, calling and telling people!”
One thought most on my mind that year was wondering if someone had been with my husband after he collapsed and what he’d been thinking while he waited for the ambulance to arrive. My vivid imagination produced a video of what I imagined.
I just accepted these ‘out of place thoughts’ as a natural part of my grieving. As time passed, the memories stopped coming around as often.
April was once my favorite month in the year. It is the month that Arnie and I were married. Unfortunately, I’ve lost several family members during past Aprils. My infant daughter died 46 years ago, my husband 10 years ago, and Mike, my son-in-law, two years ago.
I wasn’t in the van with my daughter and her family when they had the accident, but my overly active imagination makes me feel as though I was. All my mind needed was a few details about what happened, and in spirit, I was there and saw all!
The vivid replaying of my distressing memories could be called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, except I don’t lose sleep, feel angry or feel stressed. What I feel is sadness and that this is normal in grieving. It lessens, but never goes entirely away.
I think my way of grieving is tied to my habit of identifying very strongly with characters in books and movies. Someone I know once told me she liked watching sad movies so that she could, “have a good cry.” I don’t like sad stories because I hate having my heart ripped to shreds over fiction.
One tragic, non fiction story that I allow myself to be present at repeatedly, is the Passion and death of Jesus. All it takes for me to find myself at the foot of the cross is to walk into church and listen to the music, especially during Lent and Easter.
Recently, I heard a soloist sing, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?” The woman had a beautiful voice and knew how to use it to gain the greatest effect. There was no doubt in my mind that not only had she taken professional voice lessons, but that she was deeply convinced that Jesus Christ was her Lord.
Her rich voice caught the word, “Oh” and she rolled it dramatically before continuing on, “Sometimes, it makes me tremble,” her voice dropped and slowed on the last two words, “tremble…tremble” I shivered with the emotion from the words and the reality that the song evoked.
This African-American spiritual song haunts more people than myself. To believe in Jesus and His teachings is to have been present at his death and Resurrection.
Was I physically there when they crucified Our Lord? No, but being me, I easily imagine chill winds swirling about the cross as the sun eclipsed at the moment of Jesus’ death. A rumbling earthquake makes it hard for me to keep my balance and someone cries out when they spot a man who died a month before, walking about. The brutality and hatred of mankind horrifies me, but I am brought to tears by the flood of love, forgiveness and hope flooding in through the opened gates of heaven.