Loss is greatest for those who learned to love well

She has no idea how much I admire her. What an honor it is to be in her company.

Therapists are supposed to be this bastion of objectivity. But sometimes it’s impossible. Sometimes I find myself an audience to something so profound, so human, so beautiful — well, I more or less stop what I’m doing, shut my mouth, gape and tremble. The Voices Within tap me on the shoulder and pose the incredulous, wry, rhetorical question: “They give you money for this, Steven?”

“We had the kind of marriage that other people wish for,” she says.

Her husband is dead. Eight months now. After 46 years of marriage. One minute he was lining up a drive on the second tee; next minute he was dead. That’s how it is for human beings. Sometimes people just die.

So, for a while, she was “fine and busy.” That’s what grieving people do in our culture. “Keeping busy, doing fine.” And so it goes. The folly of the damned. It’s a strategy that lasts on average plus or minus six months. Followed by The Collapse.

The Collapse can come in any of several forms. Crippling depression. Acting-out behaviors. Drinking. Drugging. Gambling. Feeling crazy. Acting crazy. Raging. Self-destruction. Suicidal ideation, or its “kissin’ cuzzin”: “I wish I wasn’t alive.”

Suddenly “busy” and “fine” stop working. And then they come for help. Or a loved one pretty much drags them in under protest.

She says it again: “We had the kind of marriage that other people wish for.” And then adds: “Oh, don’t get me wrong. Sometimes it was The Clash of the Titans.”

A smile blooms on my face even as I do battle with the lump swelling in my throat. I think of the Alanis Morissette song “Everything:”

You see everything/ You see every part/ You see all my light/ And you love my dark/ You dig everything of which I’m ashamed/ There’s not anything to which you can’t relate/ And you’re still here.

Yeah, that’s it. The outrageous, dear, dear paradox of great love affairs. The faults, the injuries, the injustices — even the unlovely stuff becomes part of the breathtaking bond. In a strange way, its strongest part.

We agree, her and I, that sometimes healing grief means accepting some things that will “always suck,” things that will never be entirely OK, parts of life that will always be an uneasy truce and a baleful coexistence, such as …

… sleeping alone. Grieving people will tell you that beds are h-u-g-e. Like lying on a raft in an endless ocean. That the night robs them of movement and details and easy distractions found in the waking hours. Deafening silence becomes an amphitheater for emptiness. Months later their hand or leg will still be reaching half-awake, searching for purchase with a slumbering mate … and finding nothing but rumpled bedclothes and air. And the grieving pilgrim wants to rage at every cell in her body: “Stop being surprised! I. Am. Alone. He is gone!”

The habits of love and flesh are the last to get the news about death.

… and eating. There isn’t a table small enough not to dwarf a setting for one. How to find the motive to cook for one? Few things are more uninteresting or flavorless than food divested of the symbol of love and relationship. So grieving pilgrims eat by rote: standing up, sitting in front of a chattering television … or not at all. They simply forget. Mealtime just slips their minds.

I listen, I guide, and help where I can. But she’s doing most of the work. Already she is weaving the legacy of this man’s love into a cloth of humble gratitude.

I think she’s the richest woman alive. I think only the most blessed and fortunate — not to mention courageous — people will ever be lucky enough to hurt this much.

You heard me. Suffering is the only possible outcome for choosing to breathe the rare air of a great love. Her tears are her honor. Her decision to endure is her husband’s legacy.

One last time she murmurs: “We had the kind of marriage that other people wish for.”

Oh, dear woman. Everybody wishes for it. Wishing is easy.

You found the wherewithal to choose it.

Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Clear View Counseling Wellness Center in Las Vegas and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns appear on Sundays. Contact him at skalas@ reviewjournal.com.

Stop the bleed
Leslie Shaffer, an AMR paramedic, shows how to stop bleeding
Vicki Richardson speaks about on the power of art
Artist and arts advocate Vicki Richardson talks about the power of art to inspire and challenge. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
DressCoders pairs tech with haute couture
DressCoders is a startup focused on haute couture garments. The company uses illuminated thread that is washable and can be sewn right into the fabric. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Brava infrared oven
In cooking with the Brava infrared oven,there’s no preheating. the bulbs can reach 500 degrees in less than a second. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sinks Merge Style And Utility
Study could determine cause of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s diseases
Dr. Aaron Ritter, director of clinical trials at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, discusses his research on how inflammation in the brain impacts Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. (Jessie Bekker/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holocaust survivors talk about tragedy and friendship
Janos Strauss and Alexander Kuechel share their perspectives on life. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
'Siegel Cares' Santa delivers toys to kids at Siegel Suites in Las Vegas
Siegel Cares, the charitable wing of The Siegel Group, delivered toys to families at their apartment complexes in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Revisiting “Christ the King” sculpture
A longtime admirer of the sculpture at Christ the King Catholic Community in Las Vegas shares her perspective. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terry Fator Christmas House
Arguably better than a hotel holiday display, is Terry and Angie Fator's home located in southwest Las Vegas.
UNLV Winter Graduation Packs Thomas & Mack
UNLV's 55th winter commencement ceremony included approximately 2,146 undergraduate and graduate students who recently completed their studies. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Build-A-Bear comes to Reed Elementary School
Students participated in a Build-A-Bear-Workshop at Doris Reed Elementary School in Las Vegas, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018.
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the LVRJ
Rev. Father Seraphim Ramos talks about Greek Orthodox icons during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal at St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center art depicts names of God
Masjid Ibrahim Islamic Center founder Sharaf Haseebullah talks about new diamond-shaped art panels featuring some of the 99 names of Allah at the main entrance the Las Vegas mosque. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Holiday poultry with Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine
Tim and Chemaine Jensen of Village Meat & Wine explain the different types of poultry available for the holidays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Catholic Charities hosts early Christmas meal
Students from the Bishop Gorman High School football and cheerleader team helped to serve food at the Christmas meal sponsored by the Frank and Victoria Fertitta Foundation at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada on Sunday. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Incarcerated Christmas
This is the fourth year HOPE for Prisoners has worked with the Nevada Department of Corrections to create a Christmas for prisoners to visit their families. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
2018 Homeless Vigil
Straight From The Streets holds its 23rd annual vigil to remember the 179 homeless individuals who died in Clark County this year.
Getting through the Holiday blues
Psychologist Whitney Owens offers advice on keeping your mental health in check during the Holiday season in Henderson, Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military
Operation Homefront Holiday Meals for Military program gave meal kits to 200 families at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 10047 in Las Vegas Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. It all started with a chance encounter in a supermarket in Utica, N.Y., near Fort Drum. A soldier, his wife and infant had a handful of grocery items they couldn't afford. A Beam Suntory employee picked up the $12 cost for the groceries. The program has grown from providing 500 meal kits to military families in 2009 to providing more than 7,000 nationally this holiday season.K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @KMCannonPhoto
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women
An elegant Tea Party for substance abuse and homeless women at WestCare Women Children Campus in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Former 51s manager Wally Backman chats about new job
Former Las Vegas 51s manager Wally Backman talks about his new job with the independent league Long Island Ducks during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 10, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Roy Choi on cooking for Park MGM employees
As he prepares to open his new restaurant Best Friend later this month at Park MGM, celebrity chef Roy Choi took the time to cook for the resort’s employees Tuesday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Great Santa Run
People participated in the 14th annual Las Vegas Great Santa Run which raises cubs for Opportunity Village.
World Holidays Exhibit At The Natural History Museum
Migratory Bird Day teaches adults and kids to celebrate birds
Different organizations offered activities for kids and adults to learn about birds and celebrate their migration journey at Sunset Park. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like