Healing is a long process, maybe even a lifelong one. I understand that there are actually two lives going on inside of Mark's heart. He is holding on to an old love while falling in love with Carly and me.
It is so simple yet so complex. It is one of those times when absolute acceptance is critical. I have to let him go through it, all of it. I have been told repeatedly about the "one-year grief cycle" and have recently been accused of interrupting the "process." Maybe it's true, but love is not like a waterspout that I can just turn off.
One cold and dreary day we were driving in the pouring rain to a doctor's appointment. Along the roadside there were giant puddles and it sounded like thousands of tiny needles were dropping on the roof of our car.
At the stoplight, Mark looked over at me and said, "People are worried because I'm starting to live again. Are you?"
His question took me by surprise. I answered him cautiously, "If anything, I'm concerned that sometimes I get in the way of your sadness. People say you need time to heal. The doctors told you that most people need a year, and if you feel that way too, I want you to have that time."
"I know, it must be confusing for you," I reassured him. It was confusing for me, too.
Mark continued, "They don't realize that I will continue to grieve, maybe forever. Even the doctor tells me I should be angry, but there is no one to blame. Who would I get angry at? God? Why should I blame God for giving me so much, for filling me so full?"
I nodded in understanding and wondered silently where he was going with his thoughts. It was a common feeling I had. One thing I learned about Mark was that he appreciated someone who could sit with him and just listen. He is the type who can be comforted by silence.
Staring out at Marin General Hospital, Mark said, "Not long ago I followed a screeching ambulance carrying my wife and three unborn children to the front door of that building. It was dark and rainy, just like today. That is where they died, the final destination in their journey on earth."
His eyes were watering as he continued, "A few weeks ago I arrived back at that same building. It was a crisp and bright fall day. I hugged you, put Carly safely in her car seat and drove the two of you home. That is where she was born, the first destination in her journey here on earth."
"A lot has changed so quickly, hasn't it?" I started to understand.
Mark continued, "And how can I possibly make sense of this? Both events were life-changing. Both remind me that life is precious. But we each grieve differently and in our own time, and to spend my days wondering why these things happen is like placing a limit on God's love for me. God's ways are not our ways, and I may never know why Ronnie died."
"Well, we can either move forward cautiously or wait for social convention to give us permission. A lot has happened, but we're here together now and I love you."
He started the car and we drove away.
A Gift to My Daughter
I recently realized that the letter I wrote to Carly in the hospital was only one of many times I would want to preserve memories for her. Mark was inspired by my idea; now he plans to write her letters as well. In our desire to communicate our love to Carly throughout her life, our plans have become more elaborate. We have bought a journal of sorts and made it into what we call the "Letter Box." Although I couldn1t resist decorating it, the exterior is not the point. It's simple, but as the years go by we intend to fill it to overflowing with love, memories, and dreams.
I1ve written a letter to explain the gift to Carly. It will remain sealed until the day she receives it, which will likely be her high school graduation day.
All the other letters we will write for the different seasons she will experience in her lifetime will be sealed and mailed to our home. The cancelled postage on the outside will make each envelope a mini-time capsule, with a stamp and date that freezes the letter in a moment of history. We will keep them in the Letter Box. The letters will be for good times and bad, but each and every one will contain the pure essence of our love for her. What a joy it will be to share this with her throughout the experiences in our lives!
Today you are so young and curious. I want to remember everything from the first time I heard you cry till the day you leave for college, but I know that I will not remember it all, so I am attempting to preserve some history for you now, while the memories are still fresh in my mind.
This Letter Box is a lifelong gift to you. I wrote you the first letter on the day you were born. That one, and all the others, have been written for you to open on a special day or milestone in your life. Please open each letter on that particular day.
I am inspired to create this gift because I often wonder where the years will take us. What adventures and hardships will we share? How will you live your life? My hope is that you are filled with confidence and love that you find peace and take joy in the simplest pleasures. I pray that you laugh often and ride with dignity and grace down life's sometimes bumpy roads.
Maybe when you open some of these letters, I will be sitting by your side so I can tell you stories and laugh with you. Perhaps you will live far away and we will talk on the telephone. But if God has taken me from this earth, let this book be a living legacy of my love and pride for you.
You are the greatest joy I have ever known, and I don't want to miss a single reason to celebrate your life, even if only in spirit.
I will love you through all the years,