Driving down the half-mile, single-lane, dirt road with Lac Des Iles sparkling blue on one side and the Laurentian forest shimmering green on the other, I couldn't help but feel wistful. Here we were arriving at the lake house built by Ken's great-grandfather, where Ken and his brothers spent time every summer, where Ken's mother spent her summers, Ken's grandmother and so on. And now we were traveling the winding country roads in rural Quebec toward this special place, but without Ken for the seventh year running.
Returning brought on a sense of longing for what is gone, for something lost that cannot return; a lingering, used up sadness. That's the way I'd been feeling leading up to this trip, to this place, one of my favorites of anywhere I've been in the world with its pure, cool, silky lake, its quiet, its enduring tradition. Why wouldn't I feel wistful heading toward a place that held such joy for Ken, a place I wouldn't have known without him?
But then, in just a day or two, the beauty of it got a hold of me: the clear, black lake, the sweet air, the loons crying and the visitors arriving by canoe or breaststroke. Ken said that memories of the Lake could bring him happiness during his arduous stem cell transplant.
I realized in this heavenly place that I didn't want to feel wistful about my life anymore. I didn't want to keep longing for what could never be: the life I had with Ken. In fact, as the days of this vacation went by, I felt very happy, perhaps happier than I've felt in years. Even my laugh had taken on a new, heartier sound.
I've shed another layer of sorrow and taken on a new dimension of joy, that comes from surviving loss and being grateful for what simply is. It could be so easy for me to dwell in the state of wistfulness indefinitely, but I don't want to anymore. Instead, I think I've found a different kind of happiness.
This different happiness doesn't have anything definite attached to it. It isn't predicated on any particular outcome or end goal. It contains no certainty about what comes next. And it isn't counting on everything going just right, or perfectly, or without a hitch. I don't even believe in that kind of happiness anymore.
Today I'm happy just to have a greater understanding of my own essential nature, and to follow it where it takes me. I'm happy to be open to experience and to be open-minded about what it means to work, to love, to serve and to grow.
When I lost Ken, I lost my fairytale, my happy ending, our nuclear family, but to my surprise, eventually, I found a different kind of happiness that might just be fueled by uncertainty, surprise, the unexpected and the unknown. It took a while to get here, about 50 years. I'd like to stay for a while.
- Jill Schacter
- My wonderful husband died when I was 44 years old. Being widowed this young happens to less than 3% of married people. Writing through this loss one word at time helps me understand what I've lost and helps me continue to grow. It is how I have gradually recovered from such a severe loss. Research shows that you can benefit from taking just 15 minutes a day to write out your deepest feelings as a way of healing. On the right side of this blog, you'll see a tag for Exercises to Try. If you need some help knowing how to use writing to help heal yourself, I suggest you start there.