The first thing I want to tell you is this: I only cry in the car. The second is, I never miss the man I left.
It’s 6:25 on a Wednesday evening, a night when the kids have a standing engagement and I usually work alone for a few hours. I send him a text: I’m at the Thai place if you want to swing by. He responds a second later: Just picked up take-out from there 10 minutes ago. Great minds. Next time, I type. About once a month we share a meal. We chat about bosses and kids and upcoming family plans. Every few days, one of us texts the other with a piece of trivia, an old inside joke. Sometimes I’ll even ask, “Do you remember that time when we …” Most often, he doesn’t.
I never guessed that once I left my husband, it would be easier to talk to him. That we would respect one another or chat casually again. We separated with the goal of rebuilding a friendship and raising our children in one family. To date, we’re doing just that. He meets us at the restaurant for first-day-of-school dinners and birthdays, and occasionally just because. We interact like … well, like family. Like cousins or siblings, who live in different cities and have separate lives, but a lot of shared history. Our individual lives are better, and our relationship is much healthier, than it was in the last few years of our marriage. I never once wonder if we did the right thing, and neither of us considers going back. I’m glad for where we are, and I don’t miss the season that preceded it in any way.
But the man I married? The fun-loving, adventurous, compassionate man who used to keep crackers and water in his car for the homeless, the man who kept our accounts to the penny in his head, and who could always - always - negotiate the best deals? I miss that man every day.
Grief is completely unpredictable. You brace yourself for big days, but life is in the details, and grief is, too. Mine seems reserved almost exclusively for my car. I’ll drive down the road and tell the story of his accident out loud to myself, again. I’ll vocalize all the details and weep. By the time I get home, it’s out, and I’m ready to go back and care for my kids.
Can any of you relate? Can anyone else say, “Me too” to this?
Sunday is All Saints Day. The beauty of the liturgical calendar is that it creates a sacred space to honor every emotion. There’s a time to celebrate hope, sacrifice, divinity, human frailty, even ordinary days. If you walk through the entire year in the liturgy, you will find a place to honor the entire human experience. And on November 1, we honor those we have lost.
So on Sunday I will remember the sweet faithful woman in our congregation who lost her life to cancer recently. I will also remember my grandparents, fifteen years deceased, who had such a profound impact on my life. But on this All Saints Day, I also want to honor my losses that are harder to quantify. The man I married was lost to a brain injury in 2013 (though it took all of us a long time to realize he was gone). I need a place to honor him. I need a place to mark the death of the dream we created together. There is no memorial for this kind of loss. No service to plan, no granite cross to visit, nobody bringing meals. Weirdly, because we moved just before his accident, my best friend is the only person in our daily lives who even knew him, knew us, before his accident. I lost my husband, and nobody knew, including me, for a long time. But in my family, every one of us grieves it in some way every single day.
Maybe you need All Saints Day this year too. Maybe you need to light a candle and honor something you once loved that is gone. A dream, a relationship, a life you thought you'd have, an innocence, a softer version of yourself. Maybe you, like me, need a place to thank God for what was, and to say a prayer for where you are now. It's important. Because no matter how invisible your grief may be to others, God is tender with us. He is gentle with those who mourn, and He sits close to the broken-hearted. There is room for us at Christ’s altar, even when our losses are hard to quantify. There is room for all of the weird silly details that hold such powerful memories, for all of the inside jokes and songs and foods. There is a place to tell your story out loud, one more time. If this is you, Sunday is your day. We will honor and give thanks for the people, ideas, relationships, we loved that are now gone. For one day, we'll have a place to cry outside of the car.