Thursday, January 24, 2013
Ernie was the saddest man I'd ever met. When I called to see how he was doing after his wife died, he would often report that he hadn't gotten out of bed in days. When I set up a visit, I always asked if it would interfere with his lunch and he would laugh grimly and remind me that he no longer had any appetite. He told me that, over a year after he'd lost her, he still slept with her urn cradled in his arms, and that his last prayer every night was that he would die in his sleep and rejoin her. I listened, I talked, I counseled. He kept wanting me to come back, but nothing helped. One day when I was cajoling him to try walking, going to the target range, going to visit his brother, anything – promising him that it might make him feel a little bit better, even for just a moment or two, and that would be a start. He looked up at me, eyes clear and sincere. I don't want to feel better, he said flatly. I don't ever want to forget my wife. I never did convince him that finding peace would not erase her from his mind, and that he didn't have to punish himself to keep her memory alive. But no wonder; how often do I hurt myself by living in a past I cannot change, or a future I cannot control? There is so much pain in this world, but sometimes I wonder how much of it we cause ourselves.