Following the death of my beloved wife, Dr. Araceli Ganan Almond, May 17, 2021, my sister, Pastor K. Almond gave me a copy of a helpful book “A Grief Observed” which is a collection of C.S. Lewis’s reflections on the experience of bereavement after the death of his wife, Joy Davidman, in 1960.
The book has many lessons learned immediately for myself, but broadly for all of us in Upshur County who have lived through the ongoing double whammy of the COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid epidemic. All of us have unresolved bereavement/grief experiences from the death of family and friends during these sad times.
I wish that it were not so. However, reality is stark.
“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination,” writes C.S. Lewis.
My observation is that as a physician, I know about suffering, for we call someone who comes to us a “patient,” which comes from the Latin “patiens,” from “patior,” to suffer or bear.
Bodily, I have suffered very little, but I witnessed my dear wife having progressive neurological losses—loss of balance, speech and visual motor control. That has been soul rendering. Frightful, really! Echoing C.S. Lewis’s words: “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”
As our children and our families, as well as our Upshur County Schools teachers and staff have experienced mounting losses from a year of remote schooling to slow down the spread of COVID-19, my heart is in tune with them. I share the gut reaction of fear. Even in isolation—or perhaps because of isolation—traumatic and very frightful happenings occurred to our students outside the purview of professional, caring adults like teachers. The drug epidemic continued. Our death rate mounts.
My Faith comforts and eases my fear. The 23rd Psalm particularly has deeper meaning. Araceli and I sang this often as we worshiped at home due to the pandemic and her neurological debility. Probably more folks know this section of the Bible than any other. After all, it addresses grief that is a universal experience:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” PSALM 23 (KJV)
Another Lesson Learned as I process my grief and observe our mountain community process ours is that we grow and develop fully only when we work through our bereavement/grief. What I want is to live marriage completely and fully, including the grief stage. Together Araceli and I were a complete image of God’s Creation.
Just as our marriage relationship had an introduction, a body of more than 45 years, and a conclusion, so does a formal letter have as we learn to write in school. The conclusion of a letter includes the closing intimacy such as a remark like “Sincerely” followed by a signature. So I now see the grief stage must be filled with “Love and Kisses” and an endearing name like “Honey Bun.”