Grief plays tricks on our minds.
It allows us to imagine what things would be like if we had control over them. If we could exchange time or moments for something better, or at least more fair.
This seemingly simple daydreaming process carries so much weight. Spending time thinking about how things could be different—if only this, if only that—can send us down an inevitable rabbit hole of distress.
After my husband died, I thought about what it would have been like if I had died instead.
Here I write sweet words to my husband as I pondered this idea.
My love, my sweet husband, although I know there is no use, sometimes my mind will wander to what it would have been like if life were reversed. If I had been the one that died that day.
If I was the one who lay on the side of the river without a breath in my chest, and you were the one who received the call in the hallway of our home. I think about what it would have been like for you, my love, how you would have reacted upon hearing those words. Hearing that I had taken my last breath and closed my eyes, leaving you to keep going without the comfort of my presence in a world that is spinning out of control.
As I think of this, my body physically aches to the thought of your pain. I shudder at the thought of your aching heart and shattered spirits. I think of your reaction upon hearing those words. I wonder if you would have made the same visceral sounds that came out of my throat in the moments after I heard the gut wrenching words.
Would you have cried and cried until your eyes glossed over and you stared at the space ahead wondering if perhaps it is possible to die of a broken heart?
I am so thankful that you didn’t have to feel this, my love, and that you were beautifully ignorant to the kind of pain that I now feel is etched into my heart, creating jagged, raw scars. These scars that are still tender but comprise evidence of their healing.
I wonder how you would have moved through the grief. Through the hours of silence and the years of tears. Where your eyes would have turned during the darkest hours and longest nights.
I am growing, changing and moving forward, whatever that means. I am once again able to sing and dance, have amazing conversations and bask in the sunshine that life has given me. But through all of this, my love, in the moments that I least expect it, I once again get the wind knocked out of me by the overwhelming feeling that you have left.
I look at pictures and physically ache with a longing to hold your face in my hands and hold my lips to your mouth only to feel your breath in the air.
So, as the scars leave their mark while my heart heals, I reach deeply for the answers in my powerful imagination of what it would have been like for you, my love, and as I do, my mind goes back to the time after you died.
I was blessed with the opportunity to hold your hand and to kiss your lips. You looked so peaceful, so absolutely perfect. I walked up to you as if I was walking on air, tiptoeing to the last moments I would have with you on this earth. I grasped your hands so tightly, hoping I could change the reality before me. I whispered to you so softly that no one could hear me. I kissed you softly and spent time in quiet wonder.
My hands were intertwined with yours and I physically couldn’t tell where you ended and I began.
It is in these singular memories that I now understand what it would have been like for you during this entire process of grief. For our love has always been intertwined so ornately that I know the answer lies in my own journey. When we married we did so with the idea that we would became one. Our love and our light interlacing together. So, my love, I am thankful that life was not reversed.
That your heart was spared the shattering.
For I know your journey would have mirrored mine, our hearts equal in their measure, just as our hands were that day long ago. And I cry out in anguish to think of you feeling what I have in the last two years, my love. My ability to mentally shield you from the earthly sorrow that I now know too well.
I know that our joys and our heartaches will continue to cry out together—only yours is on the other side, and for now mine continues on this journey of life as I know it.
So, my love, I am thankful that we did not have to choose who would be forced to endure this journey of grief. I am so thankful that it is all much bigger than we are and that God’s plan is bigger than our own. For now I can attempt to let go of the control I so desperately try to grasp onto.
As I continue to walk, I will do so with my head held high and my eyes toward the light, all in the name of the love that we created together.
For I now know, you can change the world with a powerful love story.
Author: Melissa Wilder Joyce
Editor: Catherine Monkman