As you read this (through the magic of technology) I am nearing the end of an epic hiking journey. I am hiking, for the second time in 10 years, the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island. (If you would like to check it out, here is the link to do so).
On the week-long trip, I will carry with me big memories of that last time I did the hike, when I was accompanied by my (now deceased) ex-husband. It seems that although he is gone, he is still very much in relationship with me.
This will surely become a chapter in the book I am writing about transcending grief and the dance I have had with it, the way that my current relationship marches on with a departed presence as a part of it, and how I continue to be very much in relationship with the ghosts of my past.
I will always be his beloved friend; I will continue to be proud of him, to love him, as he is still all of the things he was, except he is not here now. I think this video, which has inspired flurries of writing in the last month, may sum it up best (click image to view):
As Lucy Kalanithi says in the video, speaking of the death of her husband Paul, there’s a reshaping of your identity when your partner dies and, quoting C.S. Lewis, she says “Bereavement is more than learning to separate from a spouse, it’s a phase of the marriage, too.”.
Consider that we carry with us the people who are no longer with us; they may have died, and they may have left our lives for other reasons. Consider that your relationship may have shifted, but it’s still intact, and that the spirit of who that person was to you still lives with you and can still feel your affection, even if you have moved on. Isn’t that a lovely thing to think about?
How might that change how you interact with the people who are actually in your life? I hope you feel prompted to have a conversation about the ghosts who make up who you are and how they shape who you are now.
I will be thinking about this and so much more as I trek my way along the beach and the seventy-five or so kilometres of trail. Wish me luck.