Sadly, half of all marriages end in divorce. Sadder still, all marriages—happy or not—end.
For the past year I led a group of eight women and one man, each of whom shared a common fate: Their beloved had died. One young woman lost her fiancée in an accident; others had been with their spouses, who died of illness, for many years. No matter how long a marriage lasts, a happy marriage never lasts long enough.
Most group members were blindsided by death. How could someone so real, whose existence was such a given and so seemingly permanent, possibly end? One evening while bicycling to a group session, I came upon a car stranded by a flat tire. I stopped and asked the driver if she needed help. As I approached I saw that she was on her cell phone. She paused her conversation and smiled at me: “Thank you, but I’m on the phone with my husband and he is on his way.” As I pedaled to my office I thought to myself: The members of my group no longer have a spouse to call when a tire goes flat. There is no one at the dinner table to talk with about the joys or frustrations of the day. Some nights as I bicycled home from group, I felt the weight of the members’ collective loss as well as anticipatory grief over losing or leaving all of my loved ones.
Along with sadness, I felt—and often still feel—a sense of urgency. Their losses remind me to cherish the finite number of moments of my life and the lives of my partner Chuck, my family, and my friends. Arriving home late after group, I usually found Chuck in bed, fast asleep. Then, as now, I curled up beside him and felt his warmth, grateful for his still-beating heart.
With whomever you love, may you abide in the tender urgency of this moment.