Mel's Healing Pilgrimage 2016

Links to the Camino de Santiago pilgrimages are on the navigation links to the right of the web page.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Four More Years

I saw in the news that President George H. W. Bush was hospitalized for a blood infection, a serious situation given his age of 93. This comes a day after the funeral of his wife of 73 years, Barbara Bush.

Many acknowledge that the first year after the loss of a long-time spouse or partner is laden with risk, as the surviving person faces an existence without someone that they stood with for so long. Many become depressed, confused, sickly, and even die. These risks are greatest within the first three months after death. A study from the University of Michigan says that the increased risk of death is as high as 66%. This increase is irrespective of whether the surviving partner is male or female.

Anecdotally, many of us may know stories of people who have died in pairs like this. It's distressing and it makes some of us rather concerned and cautious with the widow or widower. Since the mechanisms and causes for this increased mortality rate are unknown, we just have to be more attentive and caring.

Though the emotions are painful, I think most of us can understand deeply how the loss of our partner can make us prone to illness. At the very least, there's one less person in the home who tells us to watch our step or put on a sweater or get some rest. But I think we have strong suspicions that our health and will to face the future are somehow related. We can understand that someone who loses their spouse may no longer be interested in living a life alone.

In some ways, I feel this is analogous to the depression experienced by some like me after a marriage breakup. I for one was in an 18 year relationship, and when it ended, despite efforts to sustain it, I didn't know how to live. Why to live. Heck, I didn't even really know where to live. I felt empty and it's a feeling I don't want to experience again.

After a month apart, Stephen joins me
on my 600 mile pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago
in Leon, Spain in June 2016.
We walk the final 200 miles together.
But, I know...
I might have to one day.

I married my husband 4 years ago this week, at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena. And it was a time of joy and wonder. Joy of committing ourselves with solemn vows to each other publicly. And complete wonder that an institution that I once thought would never bless such a union would change and indeed acknowledge and invite God's presence into our voiced promises.

And in making such promises, we said "in sickness and in health, until death do us part". We promised to be there for each other. And it meant that we might have to say goodbye, as we must all one day leave our bodies behind. At that moment we utter our marriage vows, we don't think about what happens after death, but we do think about our commitments until one of us dies.

So this week, as I enjoy thinking about the shifts in my life that my husband brought me, shifts that make me more complete every day, not just in the four years since we got married but in the 16 years we have been friends, I am grateful for the time we've spent together and the wonder of our love. And if I can have four more years, I'll be overjoyed. And if I can have yet another four more years after that, well, it's grace poured upon grace, and I can only be ever grateful.

We may not know the hour of our passing, but until then, I simply say thank you for what we do have, in sickness, in health. I don't know if my final words will be "I love you" or "Thank you", but in prayer and in love, I mean the same thing.