Loneliness. I don’t understand it, but I do feel it. I felt it before I met Mark, which was partly why meeting him was such a joy – to find someone like him, so fine and exquisite and beautiful and engaging, who loved to talk and play and hang out.
It’s easy now that he’s gone, to think that I have been thrown back into my old life, that I have returned to being lonely in the same way. But I have not. Before I met him I felt a fundamental loneliness that never really left me whoever I was with. That only reinforced the feeling I had that there were so few people who could meet me or I them, and even with those who were different, there was always something out of sync.
Meeting Mark was bewildering, astonishing, and the happiness it brought me was of a whole different order to what I had felt before. It was a painful in the early days, both of us found it painful. In the same way that it hurts getting into a hot bath when freezing cold, the love and happiness we felt was almost an affront to our beliefs about the world and our lives. The superficial beliefs, anyway, the ones that has formed as a result of being hurt, wounded and let down. When we found each other and learnt to trust each other it was as if we created a space in which we could reassess out perspectives, express our fears, and engage with the deeper hopes, that perhaps lie in all of us, that we will be loved for the person we are, treated well, kindly and gently. What a gift it was to have that relationship with him – and how incredibly cruel it seems at times that I have been robbed of it by his death. But as we sat in the same cafe I was in the day before he died, Sue pointed out the extent to which I am changed as a result of those nine years with him. So it is not a return to an old loneliness, it’s a loneliness of a different order because while Mark is gone, love has not been lost.
In a Grief Observed, CS Lewis wrote:
for all pairs of lovers without exception, bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love. It follows marriage as normally as marriage follows courtship or as autumn follows summer. It is not a truncation of the process but one of its phases; not the interruption of the dance, but the next figure. We are ‘taken out of ourselves’ by the loved one while she is here. Then comes the tragic figure of the dance in which we must learn to be still taken out of ourselves though the bodily presence is withdrawn, to love the very Her, and not fall back to loving our past, or our memory, or our sorrow, or our relief from sorrow, or our own love.
I don’t always feel able to continue the dance. At other times I feel a surge of energy and determination to go on. It’s a different dance, one imbued with a changed rhythm and new knowledge, but always that underlying conviction that love is powerful, even in the face of death.