While one lives, both stand

Grief puts funny ideas into your head.

For instance, for awhile back in March, I was convinced that Steve had left me — walked out of our partnership and left no forwarding address.  I couldn’t imagine why, and spent way too much time minutely reviewing our past, looking for my error.

Then I became convinced that we had gotten done at this house, and were moving on.  As has been the case in previous moves, Steve had gone on ahead, leaving me to clean up these last few things before I joined him.  This delusion is particularly pernicious because for those of us who speak Metaphor, it’s true.   Only it’s not.

Anyhow, it’s been my goal for some while now to find or create for myself a place of gratitude for having been privileged to share so much time, love, and magic; for having had Steve in my life.  While it’s certainly a very lonely, hard, and scary thing to no longer have him for back-up, for taking the lead, for producing surprising — and occasionally infuriating — insights — surely unrelenting misery was not the best lesson I could take from our life together.

So, I started looking for ways to achieve, at first, equilibrium.  I didn’t expect to leap from misery to gratitude.  I expected there to be a process, and backsliding, and all the things that attend the pursuit of any mighty goal.

Steve and I not only shared our mundane lives, but we shared an active and beguiling fantasy life.  The worlds we built, the people who live there, the lessons, the philosophies — those also fed the richness of our partnership and informed our mundane lives.

One of the things we said, between ourselves, is that we were lifemates — better together than apart, if not two halves of a wiser, more creative, and more patient being.

I got to thinking about that, about three weeks ago — lifemates.  In the Liaden Universe® that Steve and I had built together, lifemates — a true wizard’s match — meant that one spoke for both.  The trust in that is breathtaking, if you think about it, and yet — I trusted Steve to speak for me in matters, for instance, of health, if it came about that I could not speak for myself.  Steve had bestowed a similar trust on me.

Of lifemates it is said, While one is alive, both stand.  That struck me forcefully, especially as there is, in reality, still an Us to be tended, if only in terms of our work together, which isn’t finished yet.

I was still mulling this over as I was wandering through an arts festival a couple weeks ago.  I had visited one building, and talked briefly with a silversmith, passed on to buy cat toys, and was walking toward the next building when (Steve) said, very clearly,  “Maybe the silversmith could size my ring so it would fit you.”

And I thought — Yes. Maybe she could.  And then I would have visible proof, for comfort, and for those moments when the loss looms greater than the memory.

I walked back and asked the silversmith if she would size a silver ring for me.  She said yes, and I went home, got Steve’s ring and came back.

I picked up the resized ring today, and — I felt something click when I put it on my finger, and maybe I heard (Steve) laugh.

Below, our rings.  The ring on the left is mine; inscribed with Mette, the rune for courage. Made by Phil Jurus, oh-so-very-long-ago.  The ring on the right is Steve’s, and I sadly no longer remember the name of the rune for persistence. Also made by Phil Jurus.

20 thoughts on “While one lives, both stand”

  1. It’s been almost 50 years, and I still sometimes hear my dad talking to me. A bit over 65 years, and I hear my grandfather. The pain of loss has never gone away, but it has gotten easier for me to bear. Hopefully, it will do the same for you. I wish you blessings and strength.

  2. This is beautiful.
    I can relate to the dangerous allure of the metaphor … hoping young Rook helps anchor your tether to here a bit more firmly, as well as providing a playmate for Firefly.
    Wishing you comfort, and joy, when your heart is ready.

  3. Beautiful story, and concept.
    My Mum had several instances where Dad was clearly Present, not the least of which was, when she looked at the signature to release his body at the hospital – the handwriting was Dad’s. The same signature she’d just written. Yep.
    I sometimes get the sense of one of my parents looking over my shoulder. I think it comforting.
    I will tell you from personal experience that grief folds back and forth like a tangled skein, instead of a linear progression. We knot the pieces together but they get entangled with other bits of pieces. Somehow we manage forward momentum in spite of it.
    There were times after Mum’s death when I thought the Victorians had the right of it, to maintain strict isolation for a year. There were other times my friends talked me into going out with them, even if it was just to run errands together. Everyone’s path is different, everyone’s timescale is different. The loneliness taught me something, just as the compassion shown taught me something.
    I’ve now idea where I was going with this, but something prompted me to say it.
    Be well.

  4. Beautiful. And so Fitting – in all senses. I humbly and librarian-LY pass on a book recommendation which is of great comfort to me; “Keep Moving” by Maggie Smith (not *that* Maggie Smith), and I second the previous comment about grieving being a tangled skein. So glad you find yourself in a place of gratitude! In sympathy…

  5. I still remember being uncertain if my Mother had really died or if it was just a dream. I had just dreamt of her and woke thinking I had only to call and she’d answer the phone. It took remembering standing at her graveside to convince me she’d gone. She still talks to me, in my dreams, after all these years.

  6. Terry Pratchett fans will get this reference.

    GNU Steve Miller

    “A man is not dead while his name is still spoken.”

  7. Thank you for sharing these thoughts and feelings. Reading them has made me feel, cry, and think – two good things.

    I saw daylillies blooming yesterday and thought of Steve and you and how it will be when they bloom at your house this year. He lives on in so many ways for me, and I had a mere parasocial relationship with him. He must have been so tremendous as a whole person to live with as he was real … knew and loved you.

    May his memory be a blessing.

  8. There are still moments where I think my Fiance will be back tomorrow. That he’s gone to handle a family matter, get his Mom settled in a new home, and he’ll be back. 8 years later, it’s still a jolt when I see someone with even a passing resemblance, because I want to ask if they were maybe related.. Sam was adopted, so it’s entirely possible…

    We were only married in our hearts. Sam passed before we could talk to his priest about how he could still have Sacrament while I wasn’t forced to convert. But I have that memory of standing beneath the tree in the back yard holding his hand as we made vows to each other..

    There will always be moments that take your breath away. Just know that it gets easier to get through them.

  9. So beautiful, Sharon. I hope it’s a comfort knowing that he’s still looking out for you (because, duh, of course he is!).

    Meanwhile, my dead twin sister just helped me write the draft of a book. (She was very insistent and VERY invested.) So … yeah.

  10. I felt my husband of 54 years with me at home, in his chair just to my right, and would go to comment on something, only to realise he was gone.
    I also had many dreams where he had driven off and left me. We all grieve in our own way so never let anyone tell you what is right for you.

  11. I love that you and Steve lifemated, love the power of “While one is alive, both stand,” and love that you got his ring resized to fit you. Such courage, persistence, strength, and love. I am feeling the power of this. Thank you.

  12. People stick around. They’re in your head and your heart, in the things you see and touch throughout your day. It’s just the way it is.

  13. Yeah. Like that. Five years ago I lost my partner of 40+ years. Anticipating emotions, knowing journaling was helpful with those, I journaled. At the first anniversary I put together an essay reviewing some of the learnings I’d noted, about grief but also about other, more subtle, effects of suddenly going from a dyad to a monad. Also about the emotional impacts of “downsizing”, an adventure you haven’t gone far into yet. I’m not claiming any great insight, but you might enjoy reading that essay (https://codgerville.net/my-first-year-as-a-bachelor/). Hopefully the spam filter won’t freak out at a URL.

  14. I hear my Mom. Dad dropped his earth suit first. Life went on. Mom got Parkinson’s. When the end came, I was on my way to see her and I heard Dad say he was coming for Mom. I screamed “No Dad!” I went on to see her and when I got there, she said, “My husband is here and I am packing to leave with him.” I asked them to wait. I gathered the family together, we celebrated Christmas, and the next week, she dropped her earth suit. I’ve chatted with both quite a lot since.

  15. I was lucky – her ring fit my pinky finger without change. I discovered it reposing on her bedside cabinet shortly after I held her hand as she passed on, it having been placed there by mortuary representatives. I put it on & it has been off 3 times: once for surgery, once accidentally while I was trying to find a particular battery charging cord in a backpack, & once when a care giver was rubbing lotion on my hand. While we never discussed the term lifemates we certainly were.

  16. I still remember the times I caught myself thinking it had been too long since my son had called me, so I ought to be trying to call him. The mind is trying to adjust, but sometimes even that adjustment is painful in itself. Thank you for sharing: your thoughts are precious to me.

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