Living on after death
It’s been a little over two years since my beloved Ali passed away. I miss him; I miss him so much; what I wouldn’t do to hear him say once more, “Luv you, hun.” But it will never be, and this I have accepted. For almost forty years he was my other half, and we were joined at the hip; we became one as God said, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh,” Matt 19: 5
So how have I managed to keep on living as half of one?
In this article, I do not proclaim that these are the only methods in which to do so, I am merely encouraging and inspiring you, the reader, that it is possible.
I wrote about Ali’s death (read here), and at that time I wondered how I would function in a world without him. The first thing is acceptance; that God has a plan, and I must go where He leads. Admittedly this can be so difficult when there are so many questions, and you constantly debate with yourself whether you could have changed the outcome. Well, the truth is, you will never have all the answers and no, the outcome would still be the same! Don’t beat yourself up; the past cannot be changed. Look now to your future; you need to depend on you to survive, so live for you!
At the time of Ali’s death for various reasons, my children (who live in various parts of the world) were unable to come to me. However, I had, at the time, family with me, and my granddaughter was a saving grace, but also I had God’s family and amazing friends that were with me. If you want to know about love, here is the perfect example – my Christian family upon hearing of Ali’s death at somewhere near midnight all left their homes and came to comfort me. From Friday to Sunday my house was filled with loving family and friends that didn’t have to say anything. They were just there in my presence showing me that I was not alone. That’s love, and I love them all in return.
I still have conversations with Ali, but he never replies (sorry probably a bad joke), but regardless, I talk to him; it gives me comfort. I want people to talk about him, laugh at the things he said and did, criticize him for the wrongs he did, and complain about the things he didn’t do. Some of my grandchildren will not remember him, and some will never know him, and that saddens me, but I can still plant in their hearts and minds a memory of their Ballie. My eldest grandson has an incredible memory; he never fails to surprise me of the things he remembers doing with his Ballie. I don’t want those memories to fade, so I share my memories of Ali with them. He lived, and his genetics live on through his kids so why be afraid to talk about him. Yes, sometimes it hurts when people talk about him, and my heart will crumble, but that is only because I know how much he loved me, but I’d rather have that than to never speak about him purely because he is no longer with us.
The most difficult time is when things understandably quiet down as everyone has to work, etc. That’s when your desperately aching heart can play havoc on your mind. Now is the time that you must occupy your mind with external objectives as a distraction. For me, I created a garden. I remember riding home on my quad-bike and reprimanding myself for spending so much money on plants, saying to myself that “Ali would’ve freaked out spending so much money on plants.” Then I got angry and said, “But, you died so what must I do.” These types of conversations with yourself are very natural; have them, allow yourself to be angry but don’t allow the anger to control you. The garden was a healing process for me, somewhere for me to put my energy and thoughts, an escape from the questioning and depressing mind.
With the garden completed and after a few weeks, I went back to my online teaching job, but there were still too many hours to mess with my mind. At church one evening a friend suggested I join the karate class she attended. At first I was against it – why would a then fifty-six-year-old start something so radical, for whatever reason one morning I went. If ever I can give you some profound advice it is this. Do something out of the ordinary – start an art class, do yoga, start jogging anything that will distract and refocus your mind even if for only that one hour. Going to karate has been the escape I needed. For that one hour I concentrate on karate and nothing else. My energy and frustrations are released in punches, kicks, fitness, and routines. My mind is released of tension and anxiety; this karate class is medicinal in the sense that it has helped to heal my weary soul. I have to mention the other students of the class and of course the sensei, they are a great bunch of people, and although we take the class seriously we still have a lot of good laughs and camaraderie. Laughter is so good for the soul, and when it comes from a good place and good people all the better.
If you have the means, then travel. I don’t mean that you have only to travel abroad, I have been fortunate in that I have been to some amazing places. Traveling takes me out of the box and the four walls that surround me every day; these walls that hold so many memories of Ali. Travel to the next town or province, not necessarily another country, but experience how other people live, meet new people or even visit friends, and you will be filling your mind with distractions. I like to think of Ali traveling with me wherever I go, so I find a stone and write Ali was here and the date on it and place it somewhere hopefully nobody will remove it. Check out @balliewashere on Instagram.
However, I must admit to the downside of traveling in my experiences. Sitting at an airport or train station and being surrounded by couples can make me very annoyed and sad. “Why do I have to travel alone, we were supposed to do this together?” The mind and its questions can play dirty tricks. What is meant to be an exciting look at all the happy and excited couples to pass the time? Adventure can easily become depressive? To overcome this I plug my ears with earphones and listen to music. I can close my eyes and allow the music (any kind) to occupy my mind and then I don’t have to
If there was anything you did as a child and gave it up, perhaps doing that again will help to live on. I have always loved the ocean and surfing. I surfed as a young teenager, was never any good at it, but it has always been a passion for me. I joined Christian Surfers, Mexico (read here), and found a purpose for my life. Finding something you truly believe in and acting on it will give you direction and meaning.
Living on after Ali’s death has not meant that I will or want to live without him. Impossible! He lives in my heart every moment of my life, but I realize that I’m on my own now. When I had to sort out the financial issues after his death was a big reality in this aspect. Nothing I do will ever bring him back. There are no rules for grieving, do it in a way in which you can cope with your loss.
I do want to say to the people supporting and comforting someone who is grieving; it is not always necessary to have to say something. Most times, the fact that you are with them is all they need, and every once in a while for the first few months check in on them. Don’t ever try to force the person to get on with life; life is hard in general now they have to make this living on their own. Their heads, like mine still is, is a nest of webs, a mess that slowly unravels and begins to makes sense.
Life for me is still a roller coaster, even after two years; moments of peace, and suddenly I feel like I’m in a pit. There is the adage that time heals all wounds, well then, let time heal your broken heart. Take all the time you need there are no laws or rules to apply. Some people find new love soon; others never, I cannot say what will happen to me as it is and always will be God’s will. He will lead, and I will follow, but I will be living on.
The last words of the song “Perhaps Love,” by John Denver sums it all up – “If I should live forever and all my dreams come true, my memory of love will be of you.”