I didn't think about bereavement in advance, although I am usually one to think - and worry! - ahead. There was time enough to do so, but caring for Michael was sufficient unto the day, and I was aware only that I would be thankful for him when he was finally at rest, and for myself and the family when the burden of care was lifted from our shoulders. I did not expect to be deeply affected by his going, as we had lived apart for more than twenty years, and I did not think to miss him as I do.
So I have been surprised by this sense of emptyness and aimlessness, and the sudden feeling of being alone when, I now realise, I was not alone before. Of course, after knowing each other for 60 years, the fabric of our lives is inevitably made up of threads that we have woven together, as well as individually, and that will never change. Thankfully, we remained good friends throughout the years, and so, in its own rather unusual way, our marriage remained intact, as I had always hoped it might.
But there has been more than just the final parting, the knowledge that we shall weave no more of the fabric together. While living again in Michael’s world for a time, I have learned things that I had not been aware of before, because he was never able to talk of them to me, and these have had a profound if complex impact.
I learned from the congregation of his church how readily he gave his love, his time and effort, and his possessions for the benefit of others, and how they all loved him.
I learned from children and adults alike how much his hugs had meant to them – hugs which he had never seemed able to give to me in the same spontaneous way.
I learned from his good friend and neighbour how much he missed me after we had separated, although he had made no word of protest at my going. And his pain became my pain, and I felt remorse.
I learned from the young woman who cleaned and cared for him (and who was like a granddaughter to us both), how often, right up to the end, he asked her to “Look after my Judith for me”.
All this has revived old pains from the past. But it has meant too that, through others, I have at last been able to understand the full extent of Michael’s love for me, and in doing so I feel my love for him renewing itself.
But it leaves me with a new pain, as I wonder how two people who loved each other could nevertheless have missed each other somehow, on the road through marriage, and ended up at different destinations.