Masthead header

Closure: What it is And What it Isn’t

 

unnamed-7Confession: I visited Steve’s grave last week for the first time. I don’t know why I put off going, but I know I did. It wasn’t an accident or an oversight or, “Wow, look how time has gotten away from me.”  It was intentional avoidance of what I thought would be painful, though I wasn’t sure why.  I know that’s not the real him.  I know it’s just a little plot of land that marks his earthly life while his eternal life is vibrantly strong and whole.  But still I waited.

 

I went on his birthday.  We had put off ordering a head stone as we debated what we wanted to write on it – turns out, it’s a lot of pressure to pick the words that will literally be written in stone to mark someone’s life for the rest of all time.  I was under the impression the cemetery would put a temporary marker at the site, so we hadn’t rushed our decision, but I was wrong about that.  My first feeling upon arrival was disappointment and guilt that my husband was in an unmarked grave, with weeds growing around it.  I don’t love flowers – especially silk and/or dead flowers – so we brought golf tees with little tags tied around them to put by the grave.  It seemed like a perfect idea at home, but they ended up looking tiny and inadequate.  It was a disappointing and difficult experience.  And it didn’t dawn on me right away, but in the days that followed, as I sifted through some of the emotional fallout, I think I figured out what was so hard and it’s this:

 

 

Visiting Steve’s grave doesn’t reconnect me to the real him, but to the old me; the Wife part of me.

 

 

That grave is my responsibility.  It is, in fact, my only remaining responsibility from my 30-year run as Steve Stern’s wife.

 

The day before the visit, I shared some concerns with a friend of mine who then wished me “closure.”  I’m not actually sure closure is possible or necessary in regard to the sorrow of losing Steve.  That seems like it will be a lifelong journey with different levels of angst or pain along the way.  However, my friend was right. After I ordered the headstone, I felt it.  Weighty.  Crushing. Closure.  The wrapping up of my Wife Life.  These past few days have been like emptying out the house that had contained my hardest, happiest work and handing the keys back to Jesus.  And it has been really hard.

 

I know it might be tempting at this point to jump in here and tell me I’m still a wife and I’ll always be Steve’s wife and I still have all my memories and other things that I know are meant to comfort, but please resist.  This is a road I need to walk and words like that tend to minimize what’s been lost and aren’t actually helpful. I loved being Steve Stern’s wife.  I loved cooking for him.  I loved hearing his theories on life and golf and friends.  I loved encouraging him when things got rough.  I loved taking long walks on summer nights. I loved being someone’s very best friend. I loved knowing there was a good chance that, at any given moment, he was thinking about me.  I loved knowing that if I disappeared, Steve Stern would search for me til his very last breath.  I loved sharing Saturday mornings with him.  I loved going to Costco and weddings with him.  I loved sitting with him in church.  I loved the way he let me read in bed instead of making me go to another room. I loved opening a bottle of wine before we paid bills together. I loved sharing a home and children and a whole, big, wonderful, difficult life with him.  These are the things that made a we out of Steve and me and these things cannot be replaced.

 

Closure. This season is over so much sooner than I wanted it to be.  And, yes, the memories remain and I’m grateful for them.  But the memories don’t make me feel like a wife any more than photos of vacation make me feel like I’m still in Mexico. Grief, I’m convinced, has no closure.  But seasons do.  Seasons begin and seasons end.  I thought closure would look like comforting resolution, but for me it’s been a sort of painful, gasping resolution.  Both work, I suppose.

 

What happens next?  I guess the same thing that happens when you hand the keys of a house over to a new owner.  You move into the next one.  And even if the next one is a grass hut with a mud floor, you’re still going to hang a few pictures on the walls and find a nice throw rug, you know? I might not get to choose the house, but I think I do get to choose what I make of the place.  I want to make this new, single life a good place to call home.  I am, in fact, quite determined to do exactly that.

 

I argued with myself (as I often do) about publishing this one. It feels a little raw to share openly.  In the end, I decided that I wanted to put it out there for those of you navigating the shadowlands or the pain of divorce, but also for those of you who are married. I harbor the hope that you might take the chance today to love your sweetheart a little deeper, give grace a little longer and work a little harder to care for the gift you’ve been given.  Maybe take a walk or pay some bills together or go on a fancy date to Costco just because you can. That’s my hope, because I love you and I love love.

 

With hope,

 

Bo

 

P.S.  One note:  I understand that I’m still in process here and that where I land today may not be where I land tomorrow.  My feelings will change, but I think there’s beauty in chronicling the way things unfold in real time.  I also certainly know that my journey is not universal.  The details will be different for everyone; I can only write about mine.  Hopefully they will be helpful for some.

 

April 25, 2016 - 7:58 am

Karen - So glad you did.Sold glenn’s house and call it rounding a corner. Some days there is still no oxygen in the air to breathe, especially when the bell rings for the next round. Your struggle makes me feel normal. Thank for living in a glass bowl. #notawifeonlyasister

April 25, 2016 - 8:03 am

Hugh Caldwell - Once again, it feels like you’ve been seeing into, and writing about my life experiences of last year. Amazing, Pastor.

Thank you.

April 25, 2016 - 8:03 am

Rhonda - I don’t know if this makes any sense but the way you write always inspires me to do a better job of living life…even in the most mundane details of each day. Thank you for sharing even the rough raw places and for finding the courage to not “just survive”.

April 25, 2016 - 8:05 am

Shirlee Bolliger - Oh Bo,…you are amazing and what a call God has on your life. You are such an example of how much God loves us. Thru all of this you’ve been encouraging and ministering to women everywhere. Every post is a testimony to the greatness of God.
Lord bless Bo in the next amazing season.
He’s got you.❤️

April 25, 2016 - 8:11 am

Jennifer Baker - Very beautifully written. Thank u for being u and
reminding me of my blessing….my husband

April 25, 2016 - 8:36 am

Sherri - It most certainly is beautiful, Bo. I love you.

April 25, 2016 - 9:38 am

Kate Pentz - I waited longer than many of my friends to be a wife, and the reasons you listed are my favorite reasons to be married to my groom. Thank you for sharing and encouraging us to life fuller lives. Your grieving puts words to my grieving as well and its so hard to do that. Thank you so much for publishing raw things.

April 25, 2016 - 10:04 am

Holly Migas - Not a perfect ending to the way you thought things would go but it is perfect words for where you are right now in this moment. It allows me to see and understand in a deeper way! Love to you my friend!

April 25, 2016 - 10:35 am

Angela - ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️Beautiful, real and inspiring. It warms my heart to know I’m not alone on this journey of grief.

April 25, 2016 - 10:51 am

Lori - definitely opening a bottle of wine next time he pays the bills (that will be my contribution), and loving him a little and a lot deeper. Thanks for sharing the resounding rawness of your journey.

April 25, 2016 - 12:53 pm

Nat Gitnes - My husband was/is Jewish, so must wait a year before installing a grave marker, and in all things Jewish, it has to be a ceremony. It was horribly painful because his ex-wife decided to come and one-up anything I said. I have not had the courage to return to his grave or my parents graves. Sometimes I feel guilty that I don’t go….maybe one day I will. Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone.

April 25, 2016 - 1:57 pm

Marci - Raw? Yes. Beautiful too. Thank you.

April 25, 2016 - 5:55 pm

Hope - I was lent and read your book Beautiful Battlefields last winter. Six months later my husband’s chronic health concern spiraled out of control. He was flown to a major surgical center and for 4 weeks I lived in limbo hoping he would make it. When he died and I returned home the friend who had lent me your book told me your husband had also died and you were blogging about your journey.

When one of your posts appears in inbox I SO look forward to reading it. Often I share your experiences and perspectives but even if I don’t I appreciate having insight into your journey.

We chose together to have our ashes cremated and he chose where his are to be interred. His family flipped out. But standing at his hospital bed when they took him off life support I heard the words of the angel to the women in the garden: “Why do you look for the living among the dead, He is not here: He is risen’
I know…hugely out of context…but as I looked at the bloated, mutilated shell of the man I loved, I felt the absence of his spirit and I knew he was in the presence of the Lord. As a family we are planning to disperse his ashes as he wished this spring. I carry him in my heart and will never forget him even without a tombstone.

I come from a culture that had a lot of rituals around cemetaries and grave care. But at the moment of his passing I knew I didn’t need this.

April 25, 2016 - 6:40 pm

Helen - Bo, thank you for being real and raw. It gives us a glimpse of what to pray about for you and for others.
It also reminds me that we each see from a different vantage point. When I first saw the photo, my thought was “what an brilliant idea”. Because I could only see the close-up but you could see the panoramic view. But I remain grateful that God watches over you from both a close-up and panoramic perspective. Hugging you from Portland xoxo

April 25, 2016 - 8:49 pm

Edie - Once again I’m moved to tears. Thank you for being real and honest, it is so rare. I only visited my parent’s graves once. It was just too hard, maybe I’m a wimp. But I thought, “why do I torture myself with this?” They are not there. They are with us in our memories. I don’t fault anyone else for going, I think they are braver than I am. I’m so glad you can share your process so openly with us. Thank you. Love you.

April 29, 2016 - 7:59 am

Paula - It’s had to be vulnerable in a blog with so many unknown people reading it…but you know what, so many bloggers are NOT truthful in their writings…so your rawness is deeply powerful to so many others who are hurting. In reality, those who are reading your heart are not really strangers at all…just friends you’ve never met. X