Thirteen years ago, I became a member of the group I never wanted to join. I refused to call myself a widow, yet there I was. Alone after eighteen years of marriage to Stephen—the love of my life, my soul’s other half, my rock when times were tough.
I know others face similar losses. And while the details of our personal experiences may vary, the heartbreak is as raw, as devastating, as unimaginable. To our bewildered minds, death simply does not compute. Some days we are determined to go on living through these dreadful circumstances. Other days grief overwhelms us. Sometimes life offers us new purpose.
Staying to Tell the Story
Not long after Stephen received the terrible diagnosis—cancer, treatable, not curable—I had a vision of our ongoing mission. His role was to embrace the journey from this world to the next with the depth of character and spiritual connection that had always exemplified him. My role was to stay and tell the story of how we transformed “Why us?” into “Why not us?”
I’d previously kept an infrequent journal. Now I recorded everything in real time. Treatments, hopes, disappointments. The conflicting emotions that ran through my mind. “Why can’t he just die and end this horrible pain?” “Please, don’t let him die.”
I wrote it all. And after Stephen was gone I gave interviews, taught workshops, and blogged to help others understand why we modern humans have such a hard time dealing with loss. We’re not taught how to do it. So, I shared what I’d learned about accepting the hand we’re dealt, no matter how painful.
Asking Questions Can Sustain You
While grappling with the inevitable “Why us?” Stephen and I took stock of our spirituality, our humanity, our love. We soon realized that if any couple could endure losing each other to cancer, we were that couple. So, we changed the question to “Why not us?” and determined to head straight into the challenges we faced.
I promised Stephen I would walk up to the door of death with him, and I know I did. That journey broke my heart. It also opened me to greater compassion for others and deeper connection with my True Self than I’d ever imagined possible.
Throughout the ensuing years, the tool I consistently turned to was Inquiry. Over time, the myriad questions I posed condensed into a Top Five that always brought me back to center.
Nowadays, if I start complaining “Why me?” I ask myself:
- What knowledge or skills do I already possess that can ease this situation?
- What practice can I adopt or maintain to stay connected with my soul and spirit?
- What is my greatest need right now—to take action or simply be present?
- What aspects of my life or consciousness are actually letting go of me?
- Am I allowing the future to evolve by filling today with my best efforts?
At Journey’s End
The lesson Stephen and I learned together—which has repeatedly come home to me—is this: When you continue to ask questions and courageously embrace the answers, what you find in the end is love—the essence of love once shared, love for the new person you’ve become and the love of your eternal True Self.
Inspired by A Beautiful Death: Keeping the Promise of Love.