“Mostly it is loss which teaches us about the worth of things.” - Arthur SchopenhauerA friend shared this quote with me semi recently.
And isn't it so true? Maybe you read it and think "Yeah, I know that feeling." And maybe you do, but I am betting a lot of people who think that- unless they have suffered some of the "earth shattering" forms of loss that would really give you perspective on what that quote really MEANS. (And if you do know that kind of loss...I am so so sorry for you.)
Maybe you are luckily blissfully unaware of how true this statement can be in a person's life, maybe you've never experienced that kind of loss- that isn't really the point here.
I thought I got it too. I thought I knew it when John was alive when I had to deal with some various forms of loss over the years. I thought I understood it when John was diagnosed with cancer and when we were finally told 2 days before we were supposed to leave for M.D. Anderson that it turns out that there was nothing they could do for my husband, that he was going to die, and I needed to pick a hospice within 5 days because he had less than a year to live, maybe even just a few months.
For the record, he died 42 days after they told us this, and a few days shy of 3 months from his original diagnosis. Much quicker than we ever could imagined.
But nothing really could've prepared me for how true and painful and undeniable that up there quote would be to me NOW. And how as each day goes by it seems to be more and more clear to me. I thought when dealing with something like this you start off at the worst point and move forward, but it seems as time goes on I am just more and more aware of what I lost.
The worth of what I had and what I lost was...nearly indescribable.
I cant tell you how often I would hear that we were an inspiration to people, that we had the kind of relationship people dreamed of. I appreciated those comments, although at the same time in my head I'd always think "We aren't perfect. We have problems. I just don't broadcast them to the world. And we work on them." Marriage is absolutely work and no one should ever believe otherwise. We argued sometimes, we took each other for granted sometimes (as married people tend to do), we weren't always as nice as we should've been to each other. That isn't to say our relationship was bad- it was not. But people see sweet snippets of others relationships and have that "fairy tale love" mentality in their head and get the idea that love is all a bunch of rainbows and kittens and unicorn farts. And it just doesn't really work that way, at least not all of the time.
And then you're just living your life and one day- BAM! You have the whole world pulled out from under your feet when some Dr comes in and tells you and your husband that he has a tumor on his spine and will need emergency surgery in a day but they have no other answers for you, and they cant do it here, so by the way, we'll be sending you a few hours a way and good luck.
But now I realize now that the fact that we didn't have a 100% perfect relationship didn't matter in the grand scheme of things and the loss I have endured has taught me the worth of what I had and it makes things even harder because looking back and seeing how sometimes one or both of us took what we had for granted.
I think that probably tends to happen, especially when you've been with someone awhile. We were together for nearly 8.5 years (and secretly in love with each other for much longer) and while that isn't a lifetime, we did everything in such a rushed pace (marrying within 4 months of dating, babies right away and 11 months apart, three moves, etc.) that sometimes it felt like much longer. (Funny- now it feels not even REMOTELY long enough).
But I began to realize when John was sick, and I realized it even more (and very quickly) after he passed- we DID have something very few people have.
We had history (20 years worth of history, dating twice before as minors, spending years as close or best friends before we dated), we had a friendship that I have never experienced before and don't know that I ever will experience again, we had a love that a lot of people DO search a long time for, or never get to experience. We were so much alike, but not in a bad way. We had secrets and a million commonalities and this crazy love of debating topics with each other for FUN (be it political, moral, religious, legal- nearly anything was up for a debate) and mutual interests coming out of our ears, but enough solo interests that we could give each other space to pursue what we found fun. And maybe sometimes we'd even go along with the other person even if it wasn't an interest we like, but just because we loved that other person.
One example I can think of- I have a love of urban exploration/photography and abandoned photography....John did not...he frequently came with me anyway...or stop somewhere I wanted to stop even if he didn't really want to, but he did it for me. I wonder sometimes if he knew how much I really appreciated that, even though sometimes he would complain about it...but never in a truly negative way- in that kind of smartass way he had where he was complaining about it but you knew that he was just giving you a hard time for fun, and that he really would do it for you a million times if you wanted him to, even if he really didn't.
I could go on and on about what we had and how special I knew it was but how I now realize what I had and what I have lost. And how I realize I cant even begin to weigh the worth of what I lost even with how much I feel it anyway. And how I worry I wont ever have that again and how scary that idea is.
I'm glad I was lucky enough to have him in my life as long as I did. I'm glad I was able to marry my best friend and have two beautiful children with him, and watch him raise my older boys like his own and love them like his own (and he truly did). I'm glad that I got 8 years with him before he passed.
But I want back the rest of the time I was supposed to have with him. I don't believe 8 years was all we were supposed to have. I want- I NEED him back. Yet I have no control over that and there is nothing I can do. It drives me crazy but I know there is nothing I can do because part of my brain just cant wrap itself around the fact that there WAS nothing and IS nothing I can do to change the circumstances of what happened. I cant fix it for my kids, no matter how bad I long to...no matter how much it frustrates me that I KNOW that this has totally changed their lives and not just in an immediate way.
I thought I knew. I thought I knew a lot. But now I'm left feeling like I don't know anything. Nothing makes sense or feels right and I'm kicking myself because I thought I freaking knew. I didn't know a fraction of what I thought I did.