My husband and I moved to Las Vegas in 2004, and I was so happy to find your column in the Review-Journal . Your attitudes and answers are kind but honest.
John and I would read your columns and blogs out loud to each other and then discuss (or cuss) the topic or answer. Sometimes we would copy and save something especially meaningful to us. Something that helped us to be healthier and happier. Sometimes it was something that made us laugh at ourselves. Your column from Dec. 5, 2010, “Taking The Radical Truth to Greeting Cards,” was one of those keepers. I kept a copy of “Thinking of You in Your Time Of Grief.”
John died two weeks ago, and now there are days when I actually pin your words to my clothes to remind myself why I am fortunate to feel so sad. I am one of the lucky ones. I will always be grateful to you for your wisdom and your words sent well in advance of my need. – P.H., Las Vegas
(For those readers who want the firsthand context for this discussion, visit lvrj.com/living/taking-the-radical-truth-to-greeting-cards-111343099.html)
Oh, dear woman …
Synchronicity moves me. Humbles me. Fills me with awe. Just last night I was talking to a writer friend about this. About how I write what is in my heart and on my mind, mostly to work it out for myself. I don’t know you, so certainly I was not writing that 2010 column for you or about you. And yet, this synchronous universe opened it to you, for you and about you. So, if I go for “polite” and say “you’re welcome,” I’d technically be guilty of a presumption. I’d prefer to just stand at your side, like two people watching the gift of a spectacular sunset, and say, “Wow.”
Synchronicity is a never-ending source of delight to me.
I remember the column clearly. I remember my tongue lodged firmly in my cheek when I wrote it. Truth is, my tongue pretty much lives in my cheek. The radical truth is a big deal to me. But radical truth is a powerful, overwhelming force, so I think tongue-in-cheek is the way I manage the whelm and the fear of it. It’s my own version of whistling in the dark.
I was actually standing in a Hallmark store when the idea came to me. Here I was surrounded by various sections of cards. Shoebox, Mahogany, audio cards, funny cards, Christian cards – it went on and on. It hit me: What if there were a line of cards called “Honest Hallmark”? What if you stripped a sentiment of all its sentiment and just said it out loud?
So I tried on examples for new romance, graduations, Father’s Day and retirement. Then it came to bereavement. In my mind, I saw the cover of a card saying, “Thinking of you in your time of grief .” And you would open the card and it would say, “Mostly I’m thinking I admire you. You knew this was your destination the day you decided to love. And still, you loved. You’re my hero. Broken hearts are life’s highest honor.”
If you go back to the online archive, you’ll find a comment left by a grieving mother. She called me an “idiot” for writing it. I understood. She thought I was being glib and insensitive. In fact, I was being utterly sincere. This is the constant hazard of my tongue-in-cheek life. I accept that.
Then there’s you. You read the same thing and “got” my compliment. You feel the full weight of my admiration and even are willing to admire yourself for the courage it takes to suffer the cost of love.
Your husband was the richest man alive. And you, the richest woman. You’re my heroes. One of my life’s keenest aspirations is to have the honor to walk a woman to her grave and to be likewise walked to my own.
It’s this simple: The only way to dodge the suffering of grief is to refuse to love, the consequence of which will be unspeakable suffering. These are the only two choices.
Be gentle with yourself, P.H. Find every tear. Breathe your sadness in, then breathe it out. Watch it slowly transform to a deepening of your heart and soul. Faithful grieving makes even more room for love and gratitude.
You did it. You pulled off a great love. Thank you for letting me stand here with you, saying, “Wow.”
Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of “Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing” (Stephens Press). His columns also appear on Sundays in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at 227-4165 or firstname.lastname@example.org.