Last week while on vacation with my children, I had the good fortune to catch up with a friend from high school who lives in the Florida town where we were staying. She took me on a quick tour of her neighborhood, during which time we drove past a cemetery. She pointed out a solitary figure sitting in a lawn chair under an umbrella, and paused her car so I could get a closer look.
“Do you see that elderly man? He rides his rickety bicycle to this cemetery each afternoon, regardless of the weather. He sits there for hours every single day”, she explained.
Apparently, the man is a neighbor of hers, in his early 80’s. He became a widower five years ago when his wife suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. They had no children, and they were inseparable. My girlfriend told me that since his wife’s death, he has cycled the six blocks to the cemetery with his chair and umbrella strapped to the back, every day, in order to “keep her company”. He sits alone with his wife, not speaking. He sits quietly and still, rarely moving. And then, after 2-3 hours, he rides home, only to repeat the routine the following day.
“Can you imagine loving someone so much that even in death, you cannot bear to be parted? Can you imagine sitting by a grave every day for five years?” She shook her head sadly and drove off.
Yeah, actually I can. I loved my husband that much. But in two weeks, I will have been separated from him for one year. One incredibly lonely and painful year. Neither he nor I had to die for us to be forced apart. I merely had to be bipolar. I chased my loving husband away with my abusive behavior that was associated with my untreated bipolar disorder. He tried to help me. He did everything short of having me committed. But I wasn’t ready to be well, and he finally gave up. He simply couldn’t take it anymore. And now he is looking for happiness without me, trying to find his “own path”. And I don’t blame him.
I wrote in an earlier post (“Match This”) how I will not be seeking love in my future. I gave up my opportunity to have the kind of eternal love that the cemetery couple must have experienced. No man will be sitting by my grave when I pass. I ruined that for myself long ago, and it took the loss of my marriage to recognize it.
I don’t know the circumstances surrounding the relationship between the cemetery man and his deceased wife. But there he sits, and I can only assume he is there out of love. I could have had that, but I refused treatment and now I spend hours daily not with the love of my life, but lonely and alone. The cemetery man might be lonely, but he is not alone.
I may no longer have someone who loves me enough to sit by my grave for hours each day following my death, but I have finally embarked on the path to wellness. A combination of ECT, medication, DBT, the loving support of my children, and even a little prayer may eventually help me to love myself. And maybe that will be enough.
That will have to be enough.