Sometimes I wonder if living in this house is inhibiting my ability to move past my husband’s death to make a new life for myself. Jerry, and I lived here together for over seven years. Every room I go into is filled with memories of him, except for my office upstairs. They are happy memories, but I don’t want to live in the past. He has been gone eight months now; is it time to move on?
The living room has become something of a shrine to Jerry, with his ashes on the mantle (being saved for his son to pick up), pictures and albums on the entertainment center, as well as a folded American flag, given for his military service. The walls are adorned with fish he had mounted, along with a black duck and a fox. The most recent addition is a plaque presented to Jerry posthumously from a local civic group where he was an active volunteer.
In contrast, my office has always been “a room of my own.” Perhaps that is why I long to go up there to work, to write, despite the fact that my desktop computer died a few months ago. The monitor sits dark on the desk, a lonely testament, waiting for me to return. I still have my laptop/tablet, but I can work anywhere with it, so have not returned to my office. The privacy it afforded so beautifully while I wrote is no longer a factor.
My office remains my favorite room, however, because of its captivating brightness: the early sun in one window in the morning, and the same sun, streaming through the window next to my desk in the afternoon, creating patterns through the window screen on the wall in front of me.
My cat, Frankie, used to hang out up there, because he knew I would show up sometime. Often, I would have to shoo him off my chair, and then he would curl up at my feet. He had a hiding place in the closet, and I still leave the doors partly open so he can get in it, but he, too, never goes up there anymore.
So I have gone from “a room of my own,” to “a house of my own.” I liked it better the old way, which defines my problem. Or is it a problem? I would be mourning Jerry wherever I was. In many ways he was larger than life. A friend from the local civic group told me that Jerry was his hero, because of the strength, resilience and grace he exhibited the last 18 months of his life.
I recently received a text from a woman in our previous church in Virginia. She had just found out that Jerry had died. She relayed a story about him giving her a recipe for apple dumplings and telling her all the steps involved. I cherish that – it was so Jerry! He used to make a batch of apple dumplings every time his brother, Denny, visited, with plenty to take home for the freezer. It seems everyone has a story about Jerry. How can I move on when these stories keep appearing, touching my heart, reminding me of how special he was?
I consider what it would take for me to move somewhere else, all the work involved, and I realize there is no need to even think about that. I can see that it’s not necessary to rush the grief process; it will take care of itself in due time. It is okay that my house is suffused with memories of Jerry. I don’t need to forget him to build my new life. I don’t want to forget him, and I never will.